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

Penetrating the “Pink Wasteland”: Gender and Environmentalism in Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975)

More than forty years after its first publication, Edward Abbey’s 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang (MWG) remains a major environmentalist text. The story, in which four ecoterrorist activists use sabotage techniques to protect their beloved Western landscape from industrial and commercial interference, has inspired real life movements such as Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front. However, the environmentalist project the novel describes is not as radical as it may appear at first sight. This article argues that MWG’s message of ecoterrorism depends on the (re)construction of a rigid gender boundary which turns the American West into a feminine entity that can only be saved through masculine interference. Continue reading

Charles J.C. Hutson and Confederate Flag Culture

Using primary sources from ‘American History 1493-1945' - an Adam Matthew collection

The letters of Charles J.C. Hutson, a former student of South Carolina College and a soldier in the First South Carolina Volunteers, provide insight on various topics pertaining to the American Civil War era. Held at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and accessible via Adam Matthew Digital’s ‘American History 1493-1945’ collection, the bulk of the materials pertain to the war period (1861-1865). Continue reading

The Importance of Sherry Receptions; or, Where Are All The Women In This Archive? First Impressions as the Cadbury Library BAAS Archive Intern

Internship at the Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham

n spring 2017, BAAS and the Cadbury Research Library became partners in a project to develop and promote use of the BAAS archive, held in Special Collections at the University of Birmingham. They sponsored an internship open to PGRs and ECRS to conduct a piece of research exploring gender, race and class in BAAS and British academic life. The internship also offered the opportunity for researchers to receive training in archive skills and gain experience in disseminating research to a wider public. The award was made to Sabina Peck, PhD student in U.S. history at the University of Leeds. Continue reading

‘We cast these medals away as symbols of shame, dishonor, and inhumanity’: Veteran Protest and the Rejection of Cold War Patriotism

Part II: Anti-war Activism within the Military

Soldiers returning from the battlefields of World War II were treated as heroes and their sacrifice was celebrated long after their homecoming. By contrast, Vietnam veterans were not similarly welcomed home as champions of democracy. Indeed, some veterans felt there was not any honour in their participation in Vietnam. In 1967, a small group of likeminded veterans – simultaneously upset about the treatment of Vietnam veterans when they returned home and the particularly violent nature of the war – founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Continue reading

‘Still being sent to Nam to protect America’s myths’: Anti-war Soldiering and the Challenge to Cold War Patriotism

Part I: Anti-war Activism within the Military

A 1971 Army study suggests that over 50% of active duty soldiers engaged in some form of dissent during their service. Rejecting popular Cold War patriotic mythology, these activist soldiers deemed the military an authoritarian institution and a tool of oppression wrought by an imperialistic America. In doing so, they challenged the official Cold War depiction of the United States as the protector of global democratic ideals against an evil, totalitarian communist ideology. Continue reading