Volume 4, Issue 2, 2012
Editors' Note for JTAS 4.2
SPECIAL FORUM: Revolutions and Heterotopias
Introduction to the JTAS Special Forum entitled "Revolutions and Heterotopias," edited by Micol Seigel, Lessie Jo Frazier, and David Sartorius
Candace Allen’s 2004 novel Valaida illustrates the migratory patterns of early twentieth-century jazz music and musicians, positing the art form and its performers as “heterotopians”: simultaneously in and outside of the power relations of hegemonic time-space compression, traveling in an alternate and progressive space, signified by the music. Through a reading of heterotopic spaces in Valaida, this article seeks to complicate the notion of heterotopias as purely progressive spaces for reversal and liberation. It does so by emphasizing the double nature of heterotopias as both progressive and reactionary and suggests that the way time is employed in a heterotopic space determines its progressive potential. Spaces of cumulative, static, or frozen time refuse to yield any utopian promise, whereas fluid, dynamic, and ephemeral time offers moments of agency. In the case of Valaida, music and performance offer an alternate space, where the radical potential lies in the moment of communication and community, constituting a diasporic practice and heterUtopian spaces of sound and time.
This essay compares and contrasts Babel, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Children of Men’s treatments of global Mexico. It focuses on each film’s representations of white femininity and children (variously absent, potentially revolutionary, and messianic). In addition, it offers preliminary notes on a theory of “coproduction” as both an aesthetic response to, and an effect of, neoliberal and alter-globalizations.
Drawing on the examples of the neo-Zapatista movement and the pro-immigrant marches of 2006, this article analyzes images of Emiliano Zapata, a Mexican national hero intricately tied to postrevolution nation rebuilding, as used within transnational movements that “de/territorialize” his image. At the same time that people in these movements have felt the negative effects of globalization, they have also benefited from certain recent technological developments associated with globalization, especially “technoscapes” and “mediascapes” that have launched the “local” discourse of Revolutionary nationalism across borders and onto the world stage through a variety of national and international (cyber)spaces, creating transnational heterotopias or “other spaces” for cultural and political expression that transgress national boundaries. Analyzing examples of Zapata imagery from the post-revolutionary era (1920s–1930s) against the neo-Zapatista movement of the 1990s and 2000s and the 2006 migrant protests in the United States, the paper explores the ways in which the formation of transnational “imagined communities” can destabilize traditional concepts of the nation-state.
This article analyzes the radical imagination of lesbian and gay activism in solidarity with the Nicaraguan Revolution. It examines the reasons US lesbian and gay radicals supported that revolution and investigates the ways that homoerotic, especially lesbian, desire shaped their solidarity. Drawing on Herbert Marcuse and Michel Foucault, the article argues that lesbian and gay radicals viewed the Nicaraguan Revolution in erotic and heterotopic terms. Posters, fliers, and interviews reveal that US activists, people of color and white, represented the Revolution and solidarity through tropes of female masculinity and women’s affection. Many Nicaraguan lesbians and gay men shared these nonnormative images of socialist change. Yet while Nicaraguans claimed Sandinismo as their own, for US activists revolution remained a distant object of desire and solidarity a “seduction,” “crush,” or embrace. United States activists who embraced developmentalist views of Latin American sexualities remained unable to witness lesbian and gay life inside Nicaragua, while lesbian and gay Sandinistas kept silent about FSLN homophobia so as not to undermine solidarity against the Contra war. Desire served as a powerful tool for mobilizing transnational solidarity. By failing to examine desire critically, however, US activists limited their communications with Nicaraguan lesbians and gay men and weakened the relationship they sought with revolution itself.
Stokely Carmichael’s visit to Cuba for three weeks in the summer of 1967 illustrates a convergence in the transnational routes of the African American freedom struggle and the Cuban Revolution. African American activists saw Cuba as a model for resisting US power, eradicating racism, and enacting societal change, while the Cuban government considered African Americans allies against US imperialism and advocates of Cuba’s antiracist stance. Amidst racial violence in the United States and Cuba’s efforts to inspire revolution, Carmichael’s presence at the Organization of Latin American Solidarity conference in Havana—and in particular his interactions with Fidel Castro—caused ripples worldwide. A shared “tricontinental” vision that promoted unity in the Global South against imperialism, capitalism, and racism facilitated Carmichael’s solidarity with Castro. Yet divergent views on the role of race in fighting oppression limited their solidarity. Carmichael and Castro’s spectacular alliance demonstrated their personal affinity and ideological commonalities but did not result in an institutional alliance between the black liberation movement and the Cuban state. Instead Carmichael’s connection with the Cuban Revolution left an underexplored legacy. Examining Carmichael’s visit to Cuba illustrates the possibilities and pitfalls of transnational solidarity and furthers our understanding of postwar struggles for change.
“Owning the Revolution” explores the role that conversations about race and racism played in defining the 1959 Cuban Revolution both on the island and in South Florida, where over half of the exiles fled. It highlights how revolutionary leaders challenged internal and external opposition movements by publicly labeling dissenters “counterrevolutionaries” and “racists.” Using the label “racist” to attack an opponent was not altogether new in the 1960s, but by linking the term to counterrevolution, national discussions occurring in newspapers, magazines, and on television defined public racism as existing outside of the norms of a new Cuba. Exiles disagreed with this identification and accused the revolution of betraying the nineteenth-century colorblind goals of Jose Martí. Exile leaders in Miami argued that Castro invented racial tensions and claimed that their fight was not with blacks or mulatos but with “red” or communist Cubans. The politics expressed by white exile newspapers, however, did not always fit with the concerns of Afro-Cubans in the United States. Miami Cubans failed to acknowledge the persistence of racism in new exile communities in the same way that the revolutionary government dismissed racism on the island. These parallel silences exemplify the dangers of polarized narratives that imagine the revolution as antiracist and the exile community as racist.
Drawing on Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopia, this article examines the importance of place and gender within constructions of race politics in Carlos Castaneda’s series on shamanism. Championing a “separate reality” predicated on an indigenous worldview, Castaneda’s lessons invited transnational middle-class youth to "journey" alongside him to camposcape—an anachronistic and idealized countryside—as a means to escape the bourgeois values of their homelands and find spiritual fulfillment in a timeless and "authentic" Mexico. Castaneda’s work proposed new viable spaces of difference in Mexico, yet inscribed these spaces with a masculinist discourse that served to neutralize the gender trouble within the counterculture movement in both Mexico and the US.
Forward Editor’s Note for JTAS 4.2
Prudence L. Carter takes on the formidable task of assessing the impact of race on the culture of public schools, among both students and faculty, in two nations marked by histories of extreme racial inequality: the United States and South Africa. Through school visits, interviews, and patient compilation of statistics, she examines the salience, and in some cases the slippery role, of race in interpersonal and professional relations. In the process, she bravely attempts to bring out the voices and subjectivities of the people on all sides of the color line(s) with whom she interacts.
Godefroy Desrosiers-Lauzon investigates the phenomenon of the “snowbirds.” Every year, tens of thousands of individuals from eastern Canada and the US Northeast, mainly older people, migrate to Florida for the winter months. Going beyond the usual sociological (and satiric) treatments, Desrosiers-Lauzon studies the development of the migratory flows in the post-1945 period and analyzes them in relation to structural issues in leisure studies, such as the roles of state-promoted tourism, economic development, and environmentalism. Rather than seeing the migrants as contributors to community, either through their presence or their economic input, Floridians have tended to build community by engaging in tourist-bashing—the outsiders being scapegoats for larger concerns over growth and environmental damage. One of the author’s important contributions is in addressing the question of how we should understand this group of border-crossing migrants as constituting “Americans,” and his implicit response to the set of works, of which Lizabeth Cohen’s Making a New Deal is perhaps the most prominent, that foreground the role of cultures of consumption in identity formation.
Excerpt from Negro Comrades of the Crown: African Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. before Emancipation
Negro Comrades of the Crown unveils the amazing history of the alliances that African Americans in search of individual and group freedom forged throughout the antebellum decades with the British Empire. Black soldiers were recruited by the British, who had their own imperial and diplomatic interests, in opposing the United States. Whether in the War of 1812, in raids from Spanish Florida, in the Caribbean, or in opposing the secession of Texas from Mexico, they eagerly joined in battles against the slave republic and its citizens.
Excerpts from In Search of First Contact: The Vikings of Vinland, the Peoples of the Dawnland, and the Anglo-American Anxiety of Discovery
Annette Kolodny executes a breathtaking leap into creation stories and folklore of native peoples. Kolodny examines both European (notably Viking) and Native American stories about the first contacts between the New World and the Old World, and brings the Native people’s words into the center of historical inquiry.
Excerpt from Re-Framing the Transnational Turn in American Studies (2011), edited by Winfried Fluck, Donald E. Pease, and John Carlos Rowe, published by Dartmouth College Press in Re-Mapping the Transnational: A Dartmouth Series in American Studies. Used with permission. http://www.upne.com.
This piece, which is drawn from Günter Lenz's contribution to a new anthology volume on transnational American Studies, attempts to make sense of the “transnational turn” by contrasting it with what he refers to as “transcultural studies” and looking at how both are informed by cosmopolitanism.
Mary Nolan’s contribution, which comes from her new book, The Transatlantic Century, accomplishes the impressive feat of turning the historical literature on its head. Instead of adding to the familiar story of European influences on the United States and American culture, she instead reveals the pervasive influence of the United States on European culture, even before the United States became a hegemonic world power.
Kathy Peiss knocks the established literature akilter in her study of the zoot suit. This flashy, over-the-top garb of the 1940s has long been studied as a uniform of hipsters and pachucos in the United States, who were targeted for violent repression by white police and servicemen in the 1943 “Zoot Suit Riots” in Los Angeles. Peiss audaciously opens up her study to discuss the signifier of the zoot suit internationally. In a tour de force, she outlines the sense of cultural identity fostered among zoot suiters and allied long-coat wearers, as well as the political meanings assigned to them, in such diverse places as Mexico, Trinidad, South Africa, and the USSR during the 1940s.
Forthcoming in The Imaginary and Its Worlds: American Studies after the Transnational Turn, ed. Laura Bieger, Ramón Saldívar, and Johannes Voelz (Dartmouth College Press/University Press of New England, 2013).
Ramón Saldívar‘s contribution is a wide-ranging and spirited piece of critical analysis that deals with the “color line” and its relation to the “cultural imaginary” of Americans. Making virtuosic use of examples drawn from texts by a panoply of different Black, Latino, and Asian American authors, Saldívar interrogates the nature (and existence) of “postethnic fiction.”
This article uses the lens of diaspora to explore the understudied case of US emigration and the transnationalism of Americans residing abroad. Although rarely recognized as such, native-born US citizens are also migrants who cross international borders, maintain close cultural and political ties to their homeland, and form social networks with their compatriots scattered across the globe. Despite these "diasporic" tendencies, various peculiarities of the case (individual and national privilege high among them) render Americans unlikely subjects for the application of a concept commonly associated with coercion, trauma, and marginalization. Nevertheless, this article maintains that (1) the inclusion of a counterintuitive but compatible case can sharpen the conceptualization of an already inflated term; and (2) the application of a counterintuitive framework can illuminate aspects of American mobility and belonging with significant implications for the host countries, the homeland, and the migrants themselves.
The convergent boundary between the fields of trauma theory and US war fiction has resulted in a narrow focus on the subjectivity of the American soldier in war fiction, which partly conditions American war fiction's privileging of the soldier-author. However, this focus on American soldiers does not adequately account for the essentially interactive nature of war trauma, and it elides the experiences of nurses and noncombatants on all sides of the battle while also obscuring women's distinctive war experiences, even when the fiction itself sometimes includes these dimensions. In this essay, Lahti argues that a transnational method can counter these imbalances in trauma theory and in studies of US war fiction. She engages Tim O'Brien's highly influential The Things They Carried from a transnational perspective by interrogating the text's figuring of the survivor author and focusing on critically neglected scenes of interaction between the American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians. In order to discern the way these scenes reveal the text's own struggle with its national US frame, she elaborates a methodology of close reading characters' bodily gestures to foreground the way that fiction offers a glimpse into war as a relational event, always involving two or more participants. In the case of The Things They Carried, this approach brings into view a heretofore unnoticed pattern of mimicry between the American characters and Vietnamese characters that reshapes our scholarly understanding of the text's representation of war trauma.
This article compares a recent American fiction set in Amsterdam (David Liss’s The Coffee Trader, 2003) with several other Anglophone fictions set in the same city to show how several centuries of literary heterostereotypes of Amsterdam have influenced American ideas on the city in literature. Foreign spaces in fiction almost inevitably draw American projections of the American self that cannot be recognized at home, yet Amsterdam’s particular nexus of projection is perhaps one of the most striking and underexamined, with roots reaching back to the founding mythos of America as Pilgrims’ last stop in Europe and extending to today’s often negative projections of libertinism contrasted with traditional American-style Puritanism. How do the spaces of Amsterdam in a highly detailed work like Liss’s allow a range of issues pertinent to contemporary American society to play themselves out on an “othered” stage? Contemporary questioning of capitalism, sexual and ethical mores, and Americans’ relationship with death are highlighted in this space safely outside the American self, and which thus provides a more comfortable locus for their analysis and narrative development.
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People living in the United States but unable to speak English are often portrayed as "marginal" and "isolated"—socially, economically, and geographically. Such narratives present the learning of English as central to "becoming American" and widely claim that earlier immigrants quickly acquired English. This paper counters such stereotypes. Wilkerson and Salmons present a case study of the extent to which one group of monolingual immigrants lived literally and figuratively on the margins. They draw qualitative and quantitative data from southeastern Wisconsin, especially one township, Hustisford. In 1910, 24 percent of Hustisford residents reported being German monolingual, 35 percent of those American-born. Contrary to assumptions of economic marginality, in this region such monolinguals were not only housewives and farmhands but also craftsmen, tradesmen, teachers, and members of the clergy. Another stereotype is that monolinguals were geographically marginal, but they find them living interspersed with bilinguals and English monolinguals. Nor were they socially marginal, as church records point to a broadly German-dominant but overwhelmingly bilingual community, where numerous Anglo-Americans became highly proficient in German. Even schools were hardly the powerful tools of English learning they are often portrayed as being. Despite all this, Hustisford and similar communities presented themselves as hyperpatriotic Americans. These monolingual immigrants, in short, were not marginal in the usual senses.
Reprise Editor’s Note for JTAS 4.2
Radical Cosmopolitanism: W. E. B. Du Bois, Germany, and African American Pragmatist Visions for Twenty-First Century Europe
This essay originally appeared in Representation and Decoration in a Postmodern Age, edited by Alfred Hornung and Rüdiger Kunow (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2009), 65–96.
Günter H. Lenz’s important essay focuses on W. E. B. Du Bois’s education and experiences in Germany. Tracing Du Bois’s time in Germany, from his university years there (1892–1894) to his visits in the 1920s and 1930s, and finally to his last stay in 1958 when he received an honorary doctorate in Berlin, Lenz’s analysis of Du Bois’s work indicates how political factors and social change in Germany influenced and transformed Du Bois’s interpretation of the US but also shifted the ground of Du Bois’s critique to the larger forces of global imperialism and colonialism. Moving from a study of The Souls of Black Folk (1903) through an analysis of the less popular Dark Princess (1928) and on to essays and books such as Color and Democracy: Colonies and Peace (1945), Lenz develops an argument for reading Du Bois’s “radical cosmopolitanism” as “an open, trans (and post-)national, diasporic discourse that acknowledges and negotiates intercultural multiplicity, heterogeneous interests and positions, and hybrid publics.”
Mohamed El Amine Moumine’s essay, published originally in Moroccan American Studies, edited by Mohamed Benzidan (2010), as an account of the development of American Studies in Morocco, is here republished on the heels of a significant international conference held in Marrakesh, Morocco, in December 2012 on the timely topic of the Arab Spring’s impact on the teaching of American Studies in Arab universities. The conference, organized by Professor Moumine and the Moroccan American Studies faculty at Université Hassan II Mohammedia–Casablanca was a continuation of the inaugural Cairo conference in 2004, which Moumine describes as the event that opened discussions among Americanists from the US and Arab countries on the topic of American Studies. Observing that “Morocco was the first nation to recognize the newly sovereign United States in 1777,” Moumine speaks from the perspective of a long-held diplomatic bond between these two nations. Detailing the role of “comparative cultural pedagogy” in Université Hassan II Mohammedia–Casablanca’s Moroccan American Studies programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, Moumine’s essay offers an exciting example of transnational American Studies at work.
This essay was originally published in Amerikastudien/American Studies 51, no. 4 (2006): 581–93.
Marc Priewe’s essay argues convincingly for a way of applying the term “diaspora” to Chicana/o cultural formations and consciousness by focusing on the transnational relations within the US that pervade Chicana/o life and are manifest in allegiances and nostalgias that transform ideas of ethnicity and place. Priewe’s analysis of Escandón’s text depicts how life in the “transnation” might be imagined. Echoing the language of Du Bois, Priewe examines the “zone of doubleness” and the “transnational gestalt” that characterize the experience of a living in or making a “home away from home.”