- Editor’s Note
As we usher in 2014, the editorial team of American Quarterly continues to prepare the journal for its move to the University of Hawaii. To mark that transition, new editor Mari Yoshihara and the UH editorial team have put out a call for their first special issue, “Pacific Currents” (included in this issue, and available on the AQ website). In a few months, essays submitted to American Quarterly will be read and evaluated by the UH editorial team; in the meantime, our editorial team will continue to work as hard as we can to streamline the publication pipeline and include excellent interdisciplinary articles, book reviews, and event reviews for American Studies scholars.
We include a wide range of topics in the March American Quarterly, from popular culture representations of African American masculinity to an analysis of pensions and retirement in neoliberalism to the use of Nina Simone in Hip-Hop. We also have in this issue two 19th century pieces on very different topics—children’s theatre and the creation of modern psychiatric subjects.
To start us off, Marah Gubar offers a fascinating analysis of the history of 19th century popular theatre, contending that children were so omnipresent as performers and audience members during this time that virtually all forms of popular theatre can be considered children’s theatre. She uses popular theatre as a context to examine how the categories of child and adult were struggled over and defined. Then, Cynthia, Young takes us on a tour of contemporary popular culture, examining representations of black masculinity in relation to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the larger US War on Terror. Using a compelling archive—from Colin Powell to the television show The Unit to the rap album Live from Iraq—Young connects current representations in popular culture to histories of the black male body.
In the third essay in this volume, Mag Segrest offers us an imaginative, intelligent analysis of the creation of the modern psychiatric subject at a crucial moment in history, the early 19th century. Through the specific case of an African American woman committed to Georgia’s State Sanitarium in 1911, Segrest shows how deeply, and complexly, discourses of race, public health, and the psychiatric subject are entwined. Next, we have Carey Hardin’s essay, “Neoliberal Temporality,” where she demonstrates an important shift in the current neoliberal context, where the risk and responsibility of retirement income [End Page v] transfers from employers to workers. Arguing for a new “time-sense” in the relationship between and within workers, employees, and investors, Hardin offers a convincing look at the ways contemporary labor privileges the present over the future, thus contradicting the logic of retirement investment. Our final essay in this issue takes us back to contemporary popular culture, where Salamishah Tillet examines the ways in which contemporary hip-hop artists, from Common to Lauryn Hill to Talib Kweli and Kanye West, use the music of Nina Simone as both a heuristic and musical material. The invocation of Simone, argues Tillet, recalls a radical moment in American culture even as the contemporary use transforms this history for the present.
In keeping with AQ’s tradition of offering alternative formats for publication, in this issue we have a “Forum” edited by Ernesto Chávez. This forum, like some of the others we have published in AQ, emerges from an ASA panel that focused on the intersections and contradictions within citizenship and rights activism. The forum, “Dimensions of Empire and Resistance: A Conversation on the Past, Present, and Future of U.S. (Un)Equal Rights” extends this conversation, with short pieces from a range of scholars thinking through what Chávez calls the dissonance in “the simultaneous expansion of gay and lesbian rights through the vehicle of marriage equality and the retraction of Mexican American civil liberties via anti-immigrant legislation.” To extend this conversation, readers may also log onto our website www.americanquarterly.com to engage with more related material on our “Beyond the Page” website.
We also have a fantastic event review essay by David Román that considers Tarell Alvin McCraney’s two most recent plays, Head...