Book Review: American Niceness: A Cultural History by Carrie Tirado Bramen

When the current U.S. president, as Bramen puts it in her wide-ranging cultural study, ‘epitomizes the bombastic chauvinism of the Ugly American’ (1), the concept of American niceness sounds at best like an out-dated but innocuous cliché and, at worst, like a dangerous fiction. As American Niceness sets out to prove, the trope of the kind and generous American has yet to fall out of fashion and the role that it has played in disguising a long history of ugly violence might account for its unstinting survival. Continue reading

Transatlantic Literary Women, Series 2

University of Glasgow

Run by women, and in celebration of women, the series focuses on female writers on either side of the Atlantic; specifically, their lives and work in all genres from the early nineteenth century to the present day. Talks from Dr Eilidh A B Hall and Professor Faye Hammill were among the opening highlights of this year’s series. Continue reading

Book Review: James and Esther Cooper Jackson: Love and Courage in the Black Freedom Movement by Sarah Rzeszutek Haviland

In this dual biography, Sarah Haviland traces the political and intellectual career of activist couple James and Esther Cooper Jackson. Utilising a combination of personally-conducted oral history interviews and archival material, she argues that an analysis of the couple demonstrates that communist-affiliated activists of the 1930s Popular Front era were able to adapt their activism and influence the trajectory of the modern civil rights movement that emerged in the 1960s. Continue reading

On Breaking Dissertations, or How I Read Sideways

If a project claims to re-consider the American avant-garde and its racism, what impact does this have on academic practice as such? Mariya Nikolova argues that a critique of avant-garde movements is impossible without Black and Gender theorizations. Hence the need for a re-consideration of avant-garde’s underlying protocols. Form and formality are invariably linked to epistemological violence, to the way knowledge inhabits and inhibits understanding. Experimentation often entailed elitism, but dissidence experiments, too. This double grammar resuscitates avant-gardism and requires a careful attention. The white avant-garde claimed the former through the latter, and the fact that it did raises the question of form. When does form collapse? Is there a way to make this visible?Does a methodology exist that attends to practices of unreading and whether a White scholar could ever impede their own safety? How would self-sabotage appear in such an endeavour?
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The Transnational as Civil Obedience

by guest author Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera

The turn toward transnational inquiry appeared revolutionary in the 1990s. But the pluralization of critical models into multi- or cross-national questions has forged only diminutive challenges to extant power structures. Indeed, the transnational is obedient to some of the principal myths of this age: that people believe in or identify with national material. Rather than transcending the slippery folklores of national idolatry and its cultures, the transnational reengages them in ways that do not intend to annul their relevance. In this way, the myth that “American” stories, narratives, and feelings inform people’s lives and cultures in a hybrid or direct way is a (if not the) fundamental presumption in the transnational turn, and it is also a fundamental weakness. Continue reading

“Coward, take my coward’s hand”: Mudbound (2017) and the legacy of Hollywood’s anti-racist returning veteran films

On a dusty, unpaved main street veteran Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) leaves the local general store serving the outpost Mississippi Delta community near his brother’s farm. Suddenly, he drops to the ground. The noise of a car backfiring has returned him to his recent combat experience as a bomber pilot. As local men eye him suspiciously, help is offered in the form of the outstretched hand of Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell). The offer draws reproach from the onlookers for its disruption of local customs and hierarchy. It is 1946 and, while Jamie is white, Ronsel is black. Continue reading

Veiled Interpretations of Du Bois’s ‘The Souls of Black Folk’ (1903)

Du Bois’s work The Souls of Black Folk (1903) attempts to capture the quintessential twentieth century problem “of the color-line” (713), that is the problem of racial belonging and identification. In these terms, Du Bois cautiously steps within the “Veil” of his racial segregation, a capitalized term he coins to help readers visualize the obscure barrier that separates the two worlds, and attempts to decipher the subliminal fluctuations of a blackness vastly treated as a flaw. This is the exact point which Du Bois delves into in order to staple together multiple thematic concerns. Continue reading

2017 in Review: Editors’ Top Picks

2017 in review 2017 featured a number of interdisciplinary guest-edited series covering a range of issues and fields. We published Alfred Cardone (King’s College, London) series, ‘Media Coverage and the Presidential Election of 2016’, which featured articles that took readers on a media-led tour of Trump’s election. Articles included an … Continue reading

Historians Against Slavery

International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

An over-arching theme of the conference was a trans-disciplinary approach, clearly seen in the construction of the panels. From historians to lawyers to activists, it was clear that organisers of the conference wanted to encourage research collaboration in the effort to end modern slavery. Unlike an inter-disciplinary method, a trans-disciplinary approach goes across different areas of research, not just within, to fully utilise the expertise of each field. Continue reading

Book review: Japanese American Ethnicity: In search of Heritage and Homeland across Generations by Takeyuki Tsuda

While the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is an established focus of historical study, little attention has been paid to Japanese Americans regarding their status as one of the longest-standing Asian minority groups in the US. Tsuda seeks to remedy this, and shows how historical events have influenced the perception of Japanese Americans over time. In this book he draws on first-hand accounts and his own interviews with Japanese Americans, which are helpfully synthesised to show differences both within and between each distinctive historical cohort. Continue reading