- Editor’s Note
This issue of American Quarterly opens with David Roediger’s “Making Solidarity Uneasy: Cautions on a Keyword from Black Lives Matter to the Past,” based on his presidential address delivered at the ASA annual meeting in Toronto, Ontario, in October 2015. Reflecting on a range of movements aspiring to express and achieve unity across racial, class, gender, sexual, ethnic, and national lines—from the ASA’s own efforts to be in solidarity with Palestine to Black Lives Matter activism spreading around the nation—Roediger considers the notion of solidarity evoked in these instances. He sternly cautions us against an uncritical celebration of the concept or complicity in a linear historical narrative of solidarity’s triumph. Through a deft combination of etymological, historical, theoretical, political, and cultural analysis that he has demonstrated in much of his scholarship, he insists on the importance of documenting both the connections and the disconnections of history, understanding the inclusions and exclusions involved in solidarity building, resisting facile logic of capital in search of unity, and analyzing the differentiated positionalities among groups aiming for unity—in other words, rigorous and ethical historical thinking that makes many feel uneasy—precisely in order to approach solidarity one step at a time. In response to Roediger’s address, Glen Coulthard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson remind us of the settler colonial history and present of the Mississauga Nishnaabeg, Wendat, and Haudenosaunee who—despite the theme “The Reproduction of Misery and the Ways of Resistance” and the number of sessions on the issue of settler colonialism at the conference—were largely rendered invisible from the conference. In doing so, Coulthard and Simpson reframe the issues of solidarity in terms of Indigenous land and jurisdiction and urge us to pursue “grounded normativity” based on Indigenous place-based practices and knowledge. Moon-Ho Jung responds to the address by situating Roediger’s calls in the context of historical work on interracial solidarities and theorizations of racial capitalism by such scholars as Gary Okihiro, Vijay Prashad, Cedric Robinson, Walter Rodney, and Lisa Lowe.
The three essays included in this issue all deal with race and racial imaginaries. In “Emancipatory Cosmology: Freedom’s Journal, The Rights of All, and the Revolutionary Movements of Black Print Culture,” Gordon Fraser studies the text and circulation of the first and second African American newspapers in the United States to analyze an emancipatory cosmology that offered an alternative to US-style nationhood even as it suggested a nation-like communal [End Page vii] black imaginary, one that left important legacies for articulations of black history, literature, and politics. Bret L. Rothstein and Karen M. Inouye’s “Visual Games and the Unseeing of Race in the Late Nineteenth Century” examines a mechanical puzzle that was all the rage in 1896 to discuss the visual culture of racism that naturalized racial difference as ornamental and redirected attention away from race toward presumably more intellectual and substantive concerns. In “Sound of the Break: Jazz and the Failures of Emancipation,” Bridget R. Cooks and Graham Eng-Wilmot analyze what they call “the break” in musical works written for the centennial year of the Emancipation Proclamation, which perform resistance to the disavowal of black suffering and the demand for true freedom amid the civil rights movement.
The Board of Managing Editors was excited to receive Julie Sze’s proposal for a forum on teaching American studies. Even though at the ASA annual meetings and other venues there are opportunities for scholars to share experiences, insights, and tips about teaching, there have been few cohesive discussions of pedagogy in the pages of American Quarterly. To fully and critically consider what it means to “teach American studies” in the world today, the Board encouraged Sze to expand the notion of teaching and pedagogy beyond what takes place in the classroom in US universities. We wanted to see the forum address the ideological, political, and economic contexts for teaching American studies today, both in the United States and abroad, as well as pedagogy that takes place outside academe. Sze and the contributing authors responded to this suggestion brilliantly, and the resulting forum showcases a wide variety of perspectives and insights on...