- Editor's Note
Since our editorial team began our work in 2014, we were aware of the noticeable absence of early Americanist scholarship in the pages of this journal. The sentiment that American Quarterly was not a hospitable venue for early Americanist work had been widely shared for decades. Although neither current nor previous editorial boards of the journal ever intended to marginalize scholarship on the earlier periods, it was undeniable that a negative cycle had long been at work: because early Americanists believed that the journal was not interested in their work, they tended not to submit to American Quarterly; the journal can only publish works that are submitted, hence relatively few early Americanist works were published, reinforcing the sense that the journal is not the venue for early scholarship. It has been difficult to break this cycle.
We were aware of the long abundance of fine scholarship in the field and exciting new works that have emerged on the early period, especially in tandem with the growth of such fields as Indigenous studies, studies of empire and settler colonialism, the Atlantic world, environmental studies, and racial capitalism. We knew not only that early Americanist scholarship would find an enthusiastic audience among our readers but also that scholars specializing in more recent periods would gain tremendously from engaging such works. We thus encouraged Greta La Fleur and Kyla Schuller, two of the most brilliant scholars of early America today, to propose a special issue dedicated to this period. We were delighted by their enthusiastic response and are thrilled by this exciting issue they have compiled.
Through their focus on biopolitics as a framework, the guest editors bring together an array of cutting-edge scholarship that sheds light on differential valuations of life in early America. They urge us to expand our understanding of biopolitics both chronologically and geographically beyond modern European nation-states so as to not only include but center the experiences of the colonized, the enslaved, and the exploited. By doing so, the editors and the contributors ask new questions on biopolitics, building and expanding on the theories of Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Achille Mbembe. The kinds of analyses and arguments presented in this special issue also urge early Americanists to reflect on their subject: what constitutes "early" America? What are the boundaries of "America" or "Americas"? While this compilation may include works that may not typically be associated with "early Americanist" scholarship, we believe that critically engaging these questions is generative of new sets of questions and ideas that are useful for scholars of all periods. [End Page v]
We firmly believe that this special issue marks a crucial moment in the history of American Quarterly. Yet, as brilliant as the issue is, it still has some gaps and thin areas, as the guest editors note in their introduction. We hope that the questions raised by this special issue and those left unexplored and underexamined will serve as a call for more work to be done and published in this journal. We thank the guest editors for leading us in taking this critical first step. [End Page vi]