Visual Stories: Latin America in Focus—RIAS Vol. 15, Fall–Winter (2/2022)Vol 15 No 2 (2022)
A key distinction of Review of International American Studies is its commitment to the notion that the Americas are a hemispheric and transoceanic communicating vessel. This angle provides a unique path to de-center the American Studies discipline, which has become tantamount to studies of the United States. This angle also expands the discipline beyond its traditional literary roots, inviting critical investigations into other forms of communicative media, such as cinema, television, and photography. Informed and inspired by this conceptualization of the discipline, this issue of RIAS is composed of several pieces specifically focused on Latin America, each of which employs a unique interpretive approach of visual media to, collectively and comprehensively, articulate how this multilayered cultural landscape manifests in our contemporary social imaginary.
The arbitrary delineation of the globe through the notion of ‘the western world’ has, seemingly, transformed the Latin American continent a no man’s land. In its vast extension, this part of the planet seems condemned to exist between two worlds. Despite being part of the western hemisphere, and despite its deep Catholic tradition, this vast region is surprisingly excluded as a member of ‘the west.’ Yet, it was neither placed in ‘the east,’ nor on the other side of the wall, when the world was politically, culturally, and economically divided by the Iron Curtain. This land’s perpetual homelessness might be due to its consistent political instability, to the weakness of some of its democracies, or even its colonial past, one that bears no relation to the Commonwealth of Britain, a belonging that placed Australia in the topos of the West. These reasons, in addition to others, have fostered an understanding of Latin America as being generally alien to the ‘western world.’
Being a no man’s land, deprived of a hemisphere, and broadly unintelligible by the general imaginary of the western cultural industry, this continent, populated by almost 700-million people, was traditionally subjected to stereotypes formulated during the twentieth century, and that remained unchangeable in this new millennium. Latin America has become, for the global imaginary, a place of military juntas, a vast lowland displaying desertic features, a tropical yet savage jungle, a poverty-stricken favela, and a land fought over by romantic revolutionarios.
Certainly, the question remains if the obsolete model ‘western world,’ the also obsolete ‘third world,’ or ‘periphery,’ and even the in vogue ‘global south’ would be able to embrace and reproduce a closer image of this heterogenous and vast continent, and by extension if this generalization is able to denote a set of multiple series of social diversities. We doubt it. This doubt encouraged us to gather diverse scholars from diverse academic disciplines to contribute to this issue of Review of International American Studies. And this doubt, which was at a first glance only intuitive, brough us to avoid the topic of identity and representation as the main theme for this journal’s issue. Our initial plan was to structure the series of contributions on some problematics relating to the photographic medium, a medium that is widely regarded as exerting an objective representation of reality, yet also places the pictorial representation on an undetermined semiotic field. The choice of photography was also a choice of intuition that we quickly abandoned since, in our twenty-first century mediascape, photography represents only one element of a fast and global visual stream that shapes and refashions the collective imaginary of the Latin American continent. Thus, we expanded our scope to include other media such as films, paintings, and any visual-oriented human expression that could provide insights on the complex and chaotic mechanism that formulates and constructs the imaginary on the turbulent entity that we call society. (Read more in German A. Duarte and Justin Michael Battin's "Intro")
Gender and Surveillance—RIAS Vol. 15, Spring–Summer (1/2022)Vol 15 No 1 (2022)
This issue of RIAS, guest-edited by Molly Geidel (University of Manchester, UK) and J.D. Schnepf (University of Groningen, the Netherlands), furthers the agenda put forward by the Feminist Surveillance Studies (2015) volume edited by Rachel E. Dubrofsky and Shoshana Amielle Magnet: that of putting critical feminist concerns at the center of surveillance studies. The essays in the first half of this issue highlight how a focus on the gendered surveillance associated with US imperialism—its practices, logics, and lexicon—can shed new light on the discursive formation of genders, sexualities, and feminisms in the age of the war on terrorism. Essays in the second half of the issue explore racialized and gendered forms of surveillance that generate new permutations of hypervisibility and invisibility.
Car Culture(s): Machines, Roads, Mythologies—RIAS Vol. 14, Fall–Winter (2/2021)Vol 14 No 2 (2021)
Even though Baudrillard’s catchy piece of advice as for the most effective method of exploring America’s landscapes (both real and imaginary) comes from his postmodernist travelogue limited to its titular country, it is probably difficult for anyone interested in contemporary car cultures not to extend Baudrillard’s praise of the driving experience and perceive it in cognitive rather than transportation terms, not necessarily bounded by national borders. True, American driving culture and all its related contexts—its remarkable history, its contribution to social mobility, its spectacular cars, its mythologies, the list goes on and on—is not only the oldest one historically, but—given its ties with American life-styles, politics, social stratification and the overall consumerist mindset—also the most extreme one. From Henry Ford’s Model T storming millions of American households at the beginning of the 20th century to Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster shot into space in the second decade of the following one, cars have shaped American horizons, both private and collective, like no other machine. In the process, they have conquered most of the environments we inhabit or visit, leaving a permanent imprint on our lives, regardless of our relationships with or attitudes towards them. As Daniel Miller aptly summarised, “[w]e may not be enthralled to cars, but the relationship of much of humanity to the world became increasingly mediated in the course of the last century by a single machine—the car.” (Read more in Marcin Mazurek's and Justin Michael Battin's "Introduction")
Rivers of the Americas—RIAS Vol. 14, Spring–Summer (1/2021)Vol 14 No 1 (2021)
Over the past three decades, rivers have become a fascinating and popular subject of scholarly interest, not only in the field of environmental history, where river histories have developed into a distinct subgenre, but also in the emerging field of environmental humanities. In this scholarship, rivers have often been reconceptualized as socio-natural sites where human and non-human actors interact with the natural world, generating complex legacies, path dependencies, and feedback loops. Furthermore, rivers have been described as hybrid “organic machines,” whose energy has been utilized by humans in many different ways, including the harvesting of both hydropower and salmon. Indeed, as several environmental historians have noted, in many regions of the world, watercourses have been transformed by technology to such an extent that they increasingly resemble enviro-technical assemblages rather than natural waterways. Rivers have also been discussed through the lens of “eco-biography,” a term coined by Mark Cioc in his influential monograph on the Rhine River, a book informed by “the notion that a river is a biological entity—that it has a ‘life’ and ‘a personality’ and therefore a ‘biography’.” Quite surprisingly, despite this “river turn” (to use Evenden's phrase), rivers have played a marginal role in recent American Studies scholarship. To address this gap, this issue of RIAS brings together scholars from different disciplines, countries, and continents to analyze a wide variety of river experiences, histories, and representations across the American hemisphere and beyond. Hence the title of this volume, Rivers of the Americas, should be seen as both an allusion to the Rivers of America book series (a popular series of sixty-five volumes, each on a particular US river, published between 1937 and 1974) and as a reminder of the still untapped potential of hemispheric, transnational, and comparative modes of critical engagement with rivers in American Studies. (Read more in Manlio Della Marca and Uwe Lübken's Introduction).
One World: The Americas Everywhere—RIAS Vol. 13, Fall–Winter (2/2020)Vol 13 No 2 (2020)
This issue of RIAS is based on the notion that, as people say in Spanish, “el mundo es un pañuelo” (“the world is a handkerchief”). This saying alludes to the fact that the world is crisscrossed by relations between people and between ideas, and everyone is connected to everyone else around the world through a few people in between. Thinking this way, it would be very difficult to isolate what is precisely ‘American,’ what is ‘European’ or ‘Asian’ in our world today. What we see here in all the essays is that ideas underpinning the same type of cultural development have been similar around the world through the decades because of the constant movement of people, things and ideas. From the articles collected here we see that it was as early as in the 1800s that many cultural movements were already based on general tenets that trespassed local, regional and national borders—and that they developed at an increasingly rapid pace. During the 1800s and the 1900s what we have come to take for granted as dance, literature, sciences, and even ‘outer space’ were in the process of being consolidated as recognizable fields of human endeavor. This happened, as the papers here show, out of a cross-fertilization among different realms of human life, and across continents. The Americas are now integral part of everywhere and, just as much, literally everywhere, in the form of people, animals, viruses, cultures, and even soils and sands coming in, has found its way and made its home in the Americas [...]. (Read more in Gabriela Vargas-Cetina and Manpreet Kaur Kang's "Introduction")
Captive Minds—RIAS Vol. 13, Spring–Summer (1/2020)Vol 13 No 1 (2020)
As a foundation and product of grand narratives, norms apply to any and every aspect of individual, communal, and social life. They regulate our behaviors, determine directions in the evolution of arts and philosophies, condition intra- and cross cultural understanding, organize hierarchies. Yet—when transformed into laws—norms become appropriated by dominant discourses and become “truths.” Those in control of language always construe them as “universal” and, as such, “transparent.” The usefulness of norms stems from the fact that they facilitate our orientation in the world. In the long run, however, they are bound to block our imaginative access to alternative ways of living and thinking about reality, thus enslaving our minds in a construction of reality believed to be natural. In a world so determined, dissenting perspectives and pluralities of views threaten to disrupt norms and normativities, along with the order (patriarchal, racist, sexist, ableist, speciesist, etc.) built into them. Benefactors of a normative worldview and average individuals busily trying to fit in police the perimeters of the accepted, disciplining nonconformists, rebels, and nonnormative individualists of every stripe. “Assent—and you are sane,” quipped Emily Dickinson in her well-known poem, “Demur—you’re straightway dangerous—And handled with a Chain" (read more in Małgorzata Poks's "Introduction")
1968: Transnational Legacies—RIAS Vol. 12, Fall–Winter (2/2019)Vol 12 No 2 (2019)
The year 1968 keeps capturing collective imagination on both sides of the Atlantic, as it serves as a convenient shortcut for social developments and upheavals throughout the 1960s. Even though in every country the events of 1968 unfolded differently, dramatic street protests demanding profound social changes define the dominant memory of this year on global scale. Violent suppression of street protesters by security forces form the dominant images of that year all around the globe, even if targets of the popular discontent were quite diverse.
The year 1968 can also be seen as the pinnacle of idealistic efforts for progressive social change, which was replaced by normalization efforts induced by various methods in different contexts throughout the 1970s. As such, it is connected with feelings of nostalgia and lost opportunities especially for those who consider themselves to be progressives. But to what extent were the events of 1968 truly seminal? What were their lasting legacies? (Read more in Kryštof Kozák's "Introduction").
Indigenous Social Movements in the Americas—RIAS Vol. 12, Spring–Summer (1/2019)Vol 12 No 1 (2019)
The present issue of the Review of International American Studies explores selected cases of Indigenous resistance to oppressive forms of environmental, socio-economic, linguistic, and cultural colonialism. Looking at both multi-tribal and single-tribal contexts, the authors look at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, the novels of Lakota/Anishinaabe writer Frances Washburn, the Two-Spirit movement in the U.S., and the Indigenous food sovereignty movement in the U.S. and Peru as sites of creative forms of decolonizing resistance, and analyze the material, discursive, and cultural strategies employed by the Indigenous activists, writers, and farmers [...]. (Read more in Zuzanna Kruk-Buchowska's and Jenny L. Davis's "Intro")
The Borders of the Border—RIAS Vol. 11, Fall–Winter (2/2018)Vol 11 No 2 (2018)
Whoever said that the more thresholds we draw, the more marginal spaces we create, was certainly right. The indefinite character of liminality seems to infallibly invite radical solutions: the margin is the locus of the aporia: a non-encounter with a non-language in a non-space. It is there that the Spanish conquistadors located the native peoples of the Americas, construing them as “out of place” in the place in which they had dwelled since the times immemorial; it is there that the thinkers of the Age of Reason would relegate phenomena defying rationalist argumentation or empirical proof, yet undeniably felt as present; it is finally there that individuals driven by empathy end up today amidst the ruthless political tug-of-war between 21st century nationalisms and progressive advocacy of freedom and equality. The mirage of greatness, poisoning the minds of many, calls into existence discourses of degradation and deprivation; the self-proclaimed “righteous” need a scapegoat to purge their own sins; the necessary condition of “being great” is the legitimization of the fallacy of someone else’s insignificance. with alt-facts ousting hard facts from the public space, with Orwellian media shamelessly creating realities based on the binarity of familiarity and enmity, with all visible attempts to silence the academic humanities, arts and letters by means of massive cuts in funding, the marginalization of those who find the “he who is not with us is against us” philosophy abhorrent gains significant momentum. (Read more in Paweł Jędrzejko's Ed/Note)
Walls, Material and Rhetorical: Past, Present, and Future—RIAS Vol. 11, Spring–Summer (1/2018)Vol 11 No 1 (2018)
This special issue of RIAS focuses on walls. It is motivated by Donald J. Trump’s campaign promise and presidential rhetoric insisting on building a tall, strong, beautiful and effective wall between Mexico and the United States so as to keep undocumented Mexican (and Central American) people out of the United States. Of course, walls are also things used in building houses and other buildings, creating rooms within those houses and buildings, and demarcating the edges of property in both urban and rural areas. They may be tall or short, made of a multitude of materials (including wood, adobe, brick, mud, glass, and concrete), and painted or left unadorned. And they may be used to hang art or political posters. Walls have been used for thousands of years of human history, and it is often ruins of stone walls that we find in archaeological settings since they tend to survive better than roofs, wooden furniture, and textiles. But they are not the kind of walls that motivated me or the contributors of this issue of RIAS.
Clearly then, walls are not in themselves problematic. The issue is how we use them, how people and often their governments use them, and how people affected by their presence use them. In the case at hand, it is obviously the exclusionary nature of Trump’s Wall that concerns me and this issue’s contributors. Trump’s campaign rhetoric was anti-immigration, but it specifically focused on the southern border of the United States, not its northern border with Canada, which is, of course, much longer. Trump has never proposed building a wall along the US-Canadian border, although Canadian critics have in response proposed building a botanical fence all along that border. The end result, however, was that Trump’s proposed wall came across as a wall to keep Mexicans and Central Americans out of the US and it has been perceived as deeply racist. With Trump’s campaign and presidential rhetoric against allegedly untrustworthy Muslim refugees coming into the US, the proposed wall along the Rio Grande (known in Mexico as the Rio Bravo) has become a symbol of protectionism of only a part of the US population. “Make America Great Again” is and was a catchy slogan, but in practice it came across as assuming that “Americans” were neither Muslim nor Mexican or Central American in origin. Scholars and policymakers will debate whether Trump actually meant to exclude those people from the “America” he wanted to make great again, but the wall he wants to build along the southern border of the US has become symbolic of an exclusionary and particular notion of the US that many academics and US liberals decry (read more in Virginia R. Dominguez's Introduction).
Trans/Lazio—RIAS Vol. 10, Fall–Winter (2/2017)Vol 10 No 2 (2017)
Volumes of text have been written on Italian presence in America. Even a quick Google search will demonstrate that, after the culture wars of the 1980s, the interest of Americanists worldwide has shifted to ethnic and diasporic studies within the Americas, which, slowly, begin to recognize the consequences of white ethnocentrism, whether Anglo, Franco or Hispano. Such studies, beyond doubt, are as important as they are valuable: rediscovering or uncovering essential moments in the histories of the Americas, they have provided voice to those long lost in the space of ineffability. And yet, such studies follow the “standard” directionality of the value transfer tied to each wave of migration: from Europe to the Americas. Such “translation” is, of course, essential in the study of the American cultures. Yet, bearing in mind the cultural productivity of the Americas and the demonstrable bidirectionality of the value transfer, it is just as important to dedicate some academic attention to phenomena oriented along the opposite vector: Italy, beyond doubt, has in/formed American cultures for centuries, but since the outbreak of World War II the influx of values (both intellectual and material) generated in the Americas has been responsible for the co-shaping of the Italy of today. The present volume, generously guest-edited by Claudio Salmeri of the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, offers a multifaceted insight into how American values have been “translated into Italian” and accommodated within the cultural space of twenty-first century Italy. (Read more in the Ed/Note)
International American Studies and World Literatures (10th Anniversary Issue)—RIAS Vol. 10, Spring–Summer (1/2017)Vol 10 No 1 (2017)
[...] Since its inception, International American Studies (IAS) had to define itself against the larger backdrop of global or world studies. However, as Paul Giles notes in his contribution to this special issue of RIAS marking the 10th anniversary of the journal and devoted to “International American Studies and the Question of World literature,” “World Literature in its current institutional manifestation is a much more recent phenomenon” than IAS, and may have “accumulated academic prestige more rapidly and securely than International American Studies has so far managed.” Whatever their different temporal and institutional trajectories, however, both IAS and World literature may be seen as efforts to come to terms with the momentous historical, political, social, and technological changes of the past few decades. Put simply, both can be considered attempts to fashion new epistemological tools better suited to making sense of a globalized world, so that, no matter how (relatively?) different their objects of study might be, a set of theoretical concerns would appear to be shared by both fields. Both students of IAS and World Literature, for example, need to venture beyond the traditional categories of the nation and of national cultures, by coming to terms with the social, historical, and linguistic complexities that such a move entails. Both have to do so in a way that “opens” one’s field and yet preserves its raison d’être, especially at a time when the humanities are under attack and the defense of academic positions and credentials—all calls for “interdisciplinarity” notwithstanding—is of paramount importance. Both need to rethink the parameters of their disciplinary specializations, that is, without pulling the institutional rugs from under their feet—a precarious balancing act which, in the age of the corporate university, with its rage for classifying, evaluating, and ranking, is far from easy to perform. (Read more in Giorgio Mariani's "Introduction").
Constellating Americas—RIAS Vol. 9, Fall–Winter (2/2016)Vol 9 No 2 (2016)
[...] Let us imagine, for a moment, that we have become characters in our own Robinsonade (in a time long before Daniel Defoe chronicled Robinson Crusoe’s epic journey). Engaged in a half-magical, early Renaissance exploratory endeavor, like so many others before us, we set out full of hope into uncharted waters in a well-provisioned ship, certain that our quest will end in the success we seek, the discovery of heretofore unknown lands, full of untold riches that will be ours for the taking. Fuelled by an uncommon mixture of hope, desire and determination, we rush headlong into the indiscernible future, filled with visions of the life of gods we will lead upon our successful return, heavily laden with the wealth of our exploits. But it is, unfortunately, not to be: not long into our journey, we are beset by a raging storm, whose almost demoniac power shatters our ship—and our hopes—to bits, a situation from which we only just barely escape with our lives. The intangible imagined life of gods that was ours just a few hours before is brutally and abruptly transformed, now finding objective reality in the shards of our ship washing up on the hated shore that we were in fact blessed to find, though tortured by the painful realization that it is nothing like the shore we had hoped, imagined or sought to find. The storm having dealt with our clothing in much the same way as it did our ship, thus presenting us with an unaccustomed physical reality of near nakedness, this new shore, previously unknown to our imaginations, greets us with an immediate inhospitability that finishes the job by also stripping us figuratively bare, leaving us completely naked to our own understanding as well. We are shipwrecked—castaways—most definitely not gods, lacking now not only the force that imagined a potential god-like existence, but the hope it generated. Of determination, however, we must put that to good use, and quickly. Life now takes on a very different quality, one of a more stark contact with the laws of nature than ever we have felt before. We are hot, we are hungry, we are cold, wet, exposed, and excoriated by the wind, whose fingers, gentle or sharp like claws, are a constant presence. Life is now raw existence, and in that existence, we grasp only the enormity of the sea and its deep mystery, the enormity of the heavens, its broiling sun by day and its shimmering stars at night, and the thankful—or thankless—certainty of land underfoot.
It is at this juncture that we may most fruitfully encounter the essays contained in this issue of the Review of International American Studies, which highlights several works from the 7th World Congress of the International American Studies Association, held in conjunction with the American Studies Association of Korea’s 50th International Conference in Seoul, South Korea, August 17–19, 2015. The conference theme, “Constellating Americas,” seeks a more complex international engagement in the field of American Studies, one that would foster a greater de-centering of the US within the field than even the inherently international approach of transnationalism has up to the present accomplished. By borrowing Walter Benjamin’s notion of the constellation as a theoretical construct allowing for a different way of thinking about the interrelationships between the US and other instances of America within American Studies, the emphases of the conference bring about a radical shift in the field imaginary, pointing to both a horizontal and a vertical path toward greater interrelational understanding, the one reaching outward in space, the other in time. (Read more in the Ed/Note)
(E)ventos—RIAS Vol. 9, Spring–Summer (1/2016)Vol 9 No 1 (2016)
(for English, scroll to the bottom of the page)
não possa tanta distância
deixar entre nós
que se põe entre uma onda
e outra onda
no oceano dos lençóis
Eu não escolhi abrir a presente nota editorial com um poema de Paulo Leminski porque sou polonês; e, para ser sincero, tampouco o fiz devido ao fato de ele ser brasileiro. Fiz isso porque a sensibilidade profundamente empática de Leminski, pulsando na linguagem, parece ressoar com perfeição o teor desse inovador número da Review of International American Studies. Feito por eminentes colegas, intelectuais excelentes e cuidadosos como Alice Áurea Penteado Martha, Elizabete Sanches Rocha, Ricardo Portella de Aguiar, Virna Ligia Fernandes Braga e Márcio Roberto do Prado, essa edição da RIAS aborda aquele que talvez seja o valor mais importante nesse mundo sempre dilacerado pelos desumanos vendavais da História: nosso potencial para entender [...].
[Leia mais no Ed/Nota dentro]
não possa tanta distância
deixar entre nós
que se põe entre uma onda
e outra onda
no oceano dos lençóis
I did not choose to open this Ed/Note with Paulo Leminski’s poem because I am Polish; quite honestly, I did not do it because he was Brazilian either. I did this, because Leminski’s profoundly empathic sensitivity, pulsing in language, seems to ideally resonate with the tenor of this groundbreaking issue of the Review of International American Studies. Created by eminent Colleagues, excellent, caring intellectuals—Alice Áurea Penteado Martha, Elizabete Sanches Rocha, Ricardo Portella de Aguiar, Virna Ligia Fernandes Braga and Márcio Roberto do Prado, this issue of RIAS addresses perhaps the most important value in the world forever torn by inhuman gales of history: our potential to understand.
(Read more in the Ed/Note inside)
Entre Océanos, Umbral de Nuevos Mundos—RIAS Vol. 8, Fall–Winter (2/2015)Vol 8 No 2 (2015)
Nuestra Tierra es extraordinaria. El cielo y los mares que la arropan nos hacen precipitar suspiros de complacencia; quien pueda detener su mirada sobre ellos, podrá percibir las extravagantes figuras y los sutiles colores que los engalanan. La fascinación que nos producen se manifiesta de distintas maneras. Puede ser expresada en poemas que imprimen en nuestra mente y en nuestro corazon la inmensidad de la bóveda celesta, o el vaivén y el misterio del mar, tal como lo describiera con magistrales trazos el poeta Ramón López Velarde. Así nos lo hace saborear Luis Juan Solís Carrillo en su relevante análisis ‘Elementos marinos en Ramón López Velarde: un poeta que no conoció el mar’.
Las nuevas geografías que descubrimos asombran, deslumbran. Provocan. Abren expectativas inconmensurables, como las que irrumpieron en la mente del primer Almirante que llegó al Nuevo continente, y en la de quienes, en el tiempo, recrearon con nuevas palabras aquellas ilusiones y visiones. Todavía hoy, se las retoman con esmeradas observaciones que seducen nuestro intelecto, como las que Fabián Mossello apunta en ‘La novela histórica hispanoamericana y la reescritura de la historia. Navegantes, historia y escrituras en Vigilia del Almirante de Augusto Roa Bastos’.
Los océanos que bañan el perfil de nuestros continentes se imponen como impulso soberbio que influye en la vida de nuestro planeta. No debería, pues, sorprendernos que la unión de las fuerzas colosales del Pacífico y del Atlántico por la mediación del Canal de Panamá, provocara grandes cambios en el desarrollo político y económico en las más variadas latitudes. Y son, precisamente, las decisiones de los políticos y los economistas las que afectan el desarrollo de nuestras vidas y de nuestro trabajo en la tierra, en el aire y en el mismo mar. Alfredo Salazar López, en su ‘Precarización del trabajo marítimo: Caso de México (1980–2006)’, y Carlos Gabriel Argüelles Arredondo, en ‘El Canal de Panamá en el desarrollo marítimo de las Américas’, revelan detalladas investigaciones sobre algunas de las consecuencias de la construcción de tan magna obra de arquitectura.
Alba Escriu Roca
Oceanamerica(s)—RIAS Vol. 8, Spring–Summer (1/2015)Vol 8 No 1 (2015)
The theme of the IASA 6th World Congress, ‘Oceans Apart: In Search of New Wor(l)ds’ was a fitting context in which to ask the question how did the Americas become America? And, inversely, how can America be turned inside out to reveal the Americas to which it is ineradicably, albeit perhaps urreptitiously—yet certainly historically—linked, and what might that mean for our understanding of American Studies as a field? How does the ocean itself, and its boundaryless significance, figure in whatever understanding of America and/or the Americas comes to the fore. The essays included in this issue of the Review of International American Studies each consider this question in very different ways, from the exploration of the role of the ocean in American literature, to that of the power of the ocean’s imaginary reality itself to shape our understanding of that literature. Ever present within these questions is that of the long history of empire embedded in the idea of America and all things American, what exactly that history is to mean, and how it is to be understood, especially when contextualized by the cultural significance of the ocean. With the ocean in mind, in keeping with the Congress theme, the meaning of America seems to radically shift, as the reality of the Americas becomes more evident. As this stable meaning is troubled, as traditional boundaries begin to reform in new configurations, the possibility for new discoveries about the meaning of America comes into greater prominence... (Read more in Cyraina Johnson-Roullier's Ed/Note inside)
Wor(l)ds Apart: Navigating Differences—RIAS Vol. 7, Fall–Winter (2/2014)Vol 7 No 2 (2014)
The 6th World Congress of the International American Studies Association, ‘Oceans Apart: In Search of New Wor(l)ds,’ in August 2013 attracted scholars from all over the world to Szczecin, a Polish harbor city with a long multicultural, multinational, and multilingual history. Offering their multidisciplinary perspectives, the participants answered the call of Paweł Jędrzejko (the initiator and organizer) for debate on ‘the transoceanic dynamics of history.’ This publication is a collection of papers presented at the conference; the first volume centered on literary topics, and the present one takes a broader, cultural angle, with articles from the world of politics, literature, education, and sociology.
The waters of the oceans that wash the shores of our continents keep us apart, forming the blue bands separating ‘us’ from ‘them.’ But, at the same time, they also move restless and anxious travelers across, enabling contacts inspired by curiosity of the difference and provoking different ways of handling it. The oceans manage the difference in an admirable way. They humbly embrace various waters flowing into them from distant places, smoothly accommodating variety. Through their patient moves, they soften the sharp edges of the objects embraced.
The present volume contains articles on transcending values, ideas, disciplines, cultures, or political divisions. The consecutive sections group them around different management of differences: overcoming, strengthening, recognizing or creating them. Navigating and understanding America’s differences is a difficult task; the oceans can offer a good practice [...]. (Read more in the Introduction by Sonia Caputa and Anna Gonerko-Frej)
Oceans Apart: In Search of New Wor(l)ds—RIAS Vol. 7, Spring–Summer (1/2014)Vol 7 No 1 (2014)
For three summer days in August 2013, the International American Studies Association (IASA) managed to attract scholars of all continents to travel to a Polish harbor town—Szczecin—to contribute to the discussions on America(s) separated from other continents by two oceans. The title 'Oceans Apart' turned out to be an intellectual provocation that proved that the oceanic separateness was illusory, as the discussions oscillated around the topics that were recognized and resonant in distant parts of the world. As the organizers intended, the speakers searched for new words to give meanings to old texts. The works of authors such as Herman Melville, Pearl Buck, Jack London, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle inspired scholars to ask questions pertaining to the complexity of human nature and served as referential points in debates on other more modern texts. The old problems of exclusion, prejudice and stereotyping found new exemplification both in literature and in geopolitical observations. The oceanic metaphors and associations triggered a wide range of topics and multiple ways of interpreting them, thus proving that the oceans connect rather than divide people.
The present issue addresses topics related to the notion of the ocean in two ways: those that concern issues outside of the world of literature and those that refer to specific literary texts [...]. (Read more in the 'Introduction' by Anna Łakowicz-Dopiera and Agnieszka Woźniakowska)
Decoding American Cultures in the Global Context—RIAS Vol. 6, Spring–Fall (1–2/2013)Vol 6 No 1–2 (2013)
[…] For Friedman, the world in the 21st century is flat because the social, cultural and economic impact of technology has been to foster the development and profound influence of globalization—in effect, to create a new understanding of the relationship between America, the Americas and the globe. That new understanding, in Friedman’s view, goes both ways. As US American products and culture are disseminated throughout the world, as the countries of the Americas continue to rise in economic power and importance, so too, through technology, do countries in other parts of the world begin to make their presence known and felt more strongly than ever before. As this enormous change takes place in the objective world in which we live, so too does it have a proximate effect on the world of ideas. And it is because of this effect on the world of ideas that Friedman’s use of the ‘myth of the Flat Earth’ can be seen to be especially illuminating. As a myth, the idea of the Flat Earth is one whose familiarity is so intimate as to be almost comforting, especially in terms of common conceptions of the meaning and significance of American culture. Especially in the context of US America, the notion that America itself represents the dawning of a never before seen world-understanding would seem only right, given the historical ascendancy of American exceptionalism and its seemingly indestructible influence. Digging deeper into the meaning of this intimacy, however, reveals a hidden comment on the foundations of knowledge itself. This is because embedded within it is a very telling yet less-than-evident question: what is the idea of the Flat Earth, if it is a representation of what is known—what can most radically be known—at a particular point in time? Encapsulated within the myth of the Flat Earth, then, is also an understanding of the zenith of knowledge of the natural world at that time. It is because of this subtle signification that it does not therefore matter, whether or not the myth is actually true. What is important is that it represents a form of a truth, a belief in a particular truth about a particular aspect of reality at a given point in time. […] What exactly does it mean to consider American culture(s) in a global context? What issues are highlighted within this context that may be obscured in others? What aspect of American culture(s) come to the fore that we might otherwise overlook or ignore? What does or can the imbrication of the idea of ‘global’ change about our understanding of American culture(s)? Does considering American culture(s) in global context help us to understand the other cultures with which they come into contact? Does it help us to understand American culture(s) it(them) self(selves)? These are just some of the questions addressed by the essays included in this issue. In their examination of the global context, each of the essays in its own way addresses the ‘boundaries’ of knowledge, of what can/ should be known about American culture(s), especially as these are seen to stretch far beyond their own geographical locations, especially in their interactions with other cultures. Near and far, high and low, through the brave and bold explorations of their authors, these essays seek to move our understanding of American culture(s) into new vistas of the global imaginable until they disappear beyond the recognizable horizon of the known, leaving behind them a beguiling invitation, contained in their cry, ‘Land, ho!’ (Read more inside)
Five Years of RIAS—RIAS Vol. 5, Fall–Winter (3–4/2012)Vol 5 No 3–4 (2012)
When RIAS was born six years ago as the Review of International American Studies, it identified itself as sort of a fledgling but welcome intellectual cache, a safe place where often controversial debate about the nature of American Studies could continue and develop among like minds, interested in exploring the meaning of ‘international’ in a discipline that had for so long been overshadowed and circumscribed by the country for which the term ‘American’ stood. As an offshoot of the burgeoning International American Studies Association (founded in Bellagio, Italy in 2000), the journal quickly became a clearinghouse for further investigation of issues raised in heady discussions—facilitated by regular international conference calls—among the members of its Executive Council living and working on nearly every continent in the world. With two successful World Congresses behind it (Leiden, Netherlands, 2003 and Ottawa, Canada, 2005), by 2006 the International American Studies Association had established itself as an organization whose alternative approach to the discipline of American Studies provided an internationally recognized forum where contributions to American Studies reaching outside the usual box were not only welcomed, but expected, and offered a previously non-existent means of intellectual and professional legitimization. In the context of the International American Studies Association, American Studies could stretch beyond its own boundaries as a discipline in ways that had to that time either not been possible or not been given much credence in the more traditional context of American Studies Associations at home and abroad. Fixing upon the centrality and importance of interaction between disparate American Studies Associations across the world, the International American Studies Association sought to bring to the field a new dimension, a way to get at its object of study from the outside, transcending traditional formulations to view, understand, investigate and even critique the discipline through an international lens meant to destabilize the hegemony of the ever-present problems presented by its seemingly inescapable roots in American exceptionalism and imperialism. [...] In bringing together these essays, we invite readers to take this opportunity to stop and reflect—on where RIAS began, where it has been, how far it has come, and where it may go in the future. By persisting in its efforts to supply timely, original, quality, peer-reviewed scholarship on topics and issues that are crucial to the ongoing development of the discipline of American Studies and relevant to the intellectual preoccupations of the IASA community (and all beyond it who are interested in that growth), RIAS will continue to reach beyond itself in offering alternative ways to think about the evolving field of American Studies. From small review to full-fledged, peer-reviewed, professional journal and beyond, RIAS has much to celebrate—ergo the present Anniversary Issue. (Read more inside)
Bodies of Canada/C-or(p)ganismes du Canada—RIAS Vol. 5, Winter–Spring (1–2/2011)Vol 5 No 1–2 (2011)
(Le texte français sous le texte anglais)
The dialectics of exclusion and reappropriation of femininity is at the heart of the social contract which interlaces, according to Pateman, with ‘the sexual contract’ [...], where it is only in the private sphere that woman can reach citizenship. Fundamentally devoted to reproducing and bringing up future (male) citizens, she is dismissed from the public sphere being reserved for her (?) brothers with whom she can only fraternize. [...] Indeed, when Rousseau talks about women, this ‘precious half of the Republic, which makes the happiness of the other,’ [...], he evokes their ‘chaste influence, solely exercised within the limits of conjugal union, is exerted only for the glory of the State and the happiness of the public’ (1923). Reading bodies of Canada now must certainly challenge the codification of social roles characteristic to the modern narrative and open onto the largeness of what we (want to) understand as Canadianness. In this collection of articles on Canadian and Québec literatures, we have been interested in the form that such a feminized body/space takes in light of theoretical explorations which have focused on decentralization and disunity (of identities, cultures and nations), and dominated current debates on Canadianness—namely discourses of the postmodern, the feminist, and the postcolonial. The articles collected here, however, demonstrate that the bodies of Canada are, above all, queer. Many of our contributors chose ‘queer’ as a broad theoretical ground upon which conceptualizations of Canadian space and the rhetoric of gender intersect. In fact, the affinity between the two adjectives—’Canadian’ and ‘queer’—has been the subject of an ongoing debate which has gained momentum since the publication of the groundbreaking collection In a Queer Country: Gay and Lesbian Studies in the Canadian Context (2001), edited by Terry Goldie. Not only does this volume show ‘the possible range in academic studies of gay and lesbian cultures in Canada’ [...], but it also points to the openness of the term ‘queer.’ Whereas most frequently the term itself functions as a designation for non-normative sexualities, it actually subverts all ‘proper deafinitions,’ and as such urges one to reassess various kinds of ‘norms.’ In this sense, queer theory often parallels existing conceptions of Canadianness, founded on the notions of fragmentation and unfixedness. In Jason Morgan’s words, ‘Canadian nationalism is demonstrated to be queer because it transgresses the normative basis of the nation’ [...]. (Read more in Zuzanna Szatanik and Michał Krzykawski's Intro)
La dialectique de l’exclusion et de la réappropriation de la féminité est au cœur du contrat social qui, comme le remarque Pateman, se conjugue avec ‘le contrat sexuel’ [...], où ce n’est que dans la sphère privée que la femme peut accéder à la citoyenneté. En effet, principalement consacrée à la reproduction et à l’éducation des futurs hommes-citoyens, elle est chassée de la sphère publique strictement réservée à ses (?) frères avec qui elle ne peut que se fraterniser. [...] En effet, quand Rousseau parle des femmes, ‘cette précieuse moitié de la république qui fait le bonheur de l’autre’, il évoque leur ‘chaste pouvoir, exercé seulement dans l’union conjugale, [qui] ne se fait sentir que pour la gloire de l’Etat et le bonheur public’ [...]. Il est indéniable qu’aujourd’hui, la lecture des c-or(p)ganismes du Canada doit mettre en question la codification des rôles sociaux propre au récit moderne et s’ouvrir vers le large de ce que nous comprenons ou voulons comprendre comme ‘canadianité’. Dans ce recueil d’articles sur les littératures canadiennes et québécoises, notre intêret particulier se concentrait sur la forme que prend ce corps/espace féminisé à la lumière des textes théoriques portant sur le décentrement et la désunion (des identités, des cultures et des nations) et propres aux discours sur le postmoderne, le féministe et le postcolonial qui ont nourri les débats actuelles sur la canadianité. Or, les articles réunis dans ce recueil montrent que les c-or(p)-ganismes du Canada sont avant tout queer. Beaucoup de nos contributrices ont choisi queer comme champ théorique dans lequel les conceptualisations de l’espace canadien et la rhétorique du genre s’entrecroisent. En fait, l’affinité entre les adjectifs ‘canadien’ et ‘queer’ s’est installée dans le centre du débat actuel qui gagne du terrain depuis la publication d’un recueil révolutionnaire In a Queer Country: Gay and Lesbian Studies in the Canadian Context [Dans un pays queer. Études gay et lesbiennes dans le contexte canadien], édité par Terry Goldie en 2001. Cet ouvrage montrait non seulement ‘l’étendue possible des cultures gay et lesbiennes au Canada dans le monde de la recherche’ [...], mais aussi l’ouverture a la notion de queer. Si celle-ci désigne le plus souvent les sexualités non-normatives, il faut dire qu’actuellement, elle subvertit toutes les ‘deafinitions propres’ [...] et encourage à réviser différents types de ‘normes.’ De ce point de vue, la théorie queer trouve ses échos dans les conceptions de la canadianité fondées sur les notions de fragmentation ou indétermination. Comme le remarque Jason Morgan, ‘le nationalisme canadien est manifestement queer
parce qu’il transgresse les fondements normatifs de la nation’ [...]. (Plus dans l'Intro de Zuzanna Szatanik et Michał Krzykawski)
Modernity's Modernisms—RIAS Vol. 4, Fall–Winter (1–2/2010)Vol 4 No 1–2 (2010)[...] The essays in this issue address the notion of modernity’s modernisms construed in this way in three registers: the temporal, the spatial and the global. In its reconsideration of the Western moment of modernity, this issue’s theme doesn’t seek to identify this as the only, or even the most important, modern moment. What it does seek to do is to try to unravel its significance to Western conceptions of modernity. By opening up the historical in this way, it suggests another way to think about the temporal in our considerations of modernism and modernity by decentering the influence of periodization, which would lock cultural discourse in neat 100-year time periods, often precluding productive engagement outside of those contexts by refusing and/or denying any kind of common ground. In its reconsideration of space, by emphasizing a hemispheric over an isolated (and potentially isolating) national geography, the issue provides a productive way to bring the spatial and the temporal into dialogue, so that what others have called multi-directional currents, which are often found in the interstices between national entities, are emphasized over the narrative of pure and authentic national identity. This dialogue also provides the ground for productive interdisciplinary engagement, in that what can be considered common ground need no longer be determined only by discipline, but rather by object of knowledge, which is also often derived thematically. And it speaks in a global register because as a result of these other registers, it becomes possible to think about the global interrelationships, geographical, national, cultural, political, etc. that may exist between silenced or oppressed modernities that we don’t know so well in relation to the hegemonic narrative of the modern that we all know too well. This is the way by which modernity’s modernisms come to be understood or to represent multiple interconnected ‘hemi/spheres,’ in which exist many possible relations of various (though not all) modernities through history, time, and space, across axes of east and west and north and south—linked also, through the shared quest of discovery, to disparate global modernities existing prior to the 15th century modern moment of the West. Viewed in terms of such multiple ‘hemi/spheres,’ modernity’s modernisms thus suggests both a transnational and a transhistorical approach, forming an important nexus between inside/outside, colonial/postcolonial, the West and the Rest [...]. (Read more in the Editorial)
In Terror and Security–RIAS Vol. 3, Summer–Fall (1–2/2009)Vol 3 No 3–4 (2009)
Since 9/11 and the rising interest in state security, academia has been one of the many arenas encouraged to invest in the research and dissemination of security policies and technologies, as can be seen by the growing number of programs and research funding dedicated to ‘security studies’ in both US and European universities. This issue of the Review of International American Studies aims to provide a critical response to this wider phenomenon, by examining and challenging the current political and cultural climate of fear, exacerbated by the ‘war on terror.’ The contributions to this volume will consider the rhetoric, history, and social impact of current notions of ‘Homeland Security.’
Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in the US, notions of national and international security re-entered, with reinvigorated might, political discourse and praxis worldwide, through policies which extend to issues such as border protection, health and safety, immigration, citizenship and environment. This volume will explore ‘security’ not only as policy but as culture, as a central theme of official discourse and as a determining factor in the structure of our everyday life. Current constructions of national security can be said to be part of a mythology that goes back to the early captivity narratives, extremely popular in the US since the 17th century until the close of the ‘frontier,’ but later rewritten and revisited in different forms and genres [...]. (Read more in Susana Araújo's Editorial)
American Studies/Americanist Canons—RIAS Vol. 3, Winter–Spring (1–2/2008)Vol 3 No 1–2 (2008)
The advent of Inter-American Studies has not only opened up an alternative discourse in the study of ‘American’ culture; it has also produced a discourse that suggests an alternative practice, through the struggle to address the numerous questions it raises concerning issues as diverse as language, translation, transnationalism, immigration, race, ethnicity, national identity, gender, cultural inclusion vs. exclusion, politics, geography, history, economics, and a whole host of other topics. As an approach that speaks not to one discipline but many—and whose primary emphasis is this interdisciplinarity—Inter-American Studies addresses a way of understanding that, because it suggests a radically different geo-political mapping at its core, demands a concomitant alteration in any disciplinary approach to the study of American culture. In its hemispheric re-articulation of the notion of America, it points to all that is silenced within singular conceptions of American culture. Such conceptions would often seem to imply the construction of a hegemonic and all-important United States, while denying or eliding all consideration of the socio-politico-historical interrelationships that pertain between the United States and its hemispheric neighbors. But because these interrelationships also form the central foundation of Inter-American Studies, no recognition of their importance can take place without a concomitant transformation in perspective with regard to the mode by which American culture is to be studied. In most disciplines, this transformation must, necessarily, entail an engagement with what Masao Myoshi has called the myth of the nation state, a ‘nostalgic’ and ‘sentimental’ understanding of the state that ‘offers an illusion of a classless organic community of which everyone is an equal member,’ in the spirit of Benedict Anderson’s ‘imagined communities’ (744). When considered in the context of the Americas, such a view of the nation-state becomes immensely problematic. Viewed in terms of the historic economic, cultural and linguistic hegemony of the United States in relation to its hemispheric neighbors, or the oppression of various indigenous populations in many nations throughout the hemisphere, such considerations of the nation-state may often serve to camouflage the underlying cultural tensions existing below the surface to which the hemispheric approach can provide access. Through the process by which ‘America’ becomes ‘Americas’ then, all that is implied in this reconfiguration must come to the table and be counted. Yet, despite its insistence on the plural, the hemispheric study of American literature, history and culture does not seek to deny the importance and value of American Studies, conventionally conceived. Rather, it seeks a reconsideration of the terms upon which American Studies has been founded, something that would allow for a complementary give and take between the two perspectives, in the interests of a certain enrichment of both.
It is with the terms of this reassessment that the current issue of RIAS is concerned. What does it mean to consider the object of study, America, in the plural, as ‘Americas,’ rather than ‘America’? What issues of language, translation, history, politics, culture, nation, ethnicity, race, gender, identity, geography, etc. are at stake in this transformation? How are these issues to be understood and accounted for? More fundamentally, how do these issues reflect on the current state of knowledge and knowledge production regarding the study of America? What problems will need to be addressed as a result, and what changes will need to be made in order to do justice to their implications? How does consideration of the United States in relation to its hemispheric neighbors change our understanding of both the US and its neighbors? How might studying the United States in relational context alter our understanding of the United States and our conceptions of ‘America’ and ‘Americanness’? Finally, what does it mean to study ‘America’ in the plural? What changes must be made in the object of study? (Read more in the Editorial)
Loci and Foci—RIAS Vol. 2, Summer–Fall (2/2007)Vol 2 No 3 (2007)
The IASA Third World Congress is quickly drawing near. By the time you are reading these lines, you are probably getting ready to pack your bags or are expressing your regret that you didn’t register for the conference. Since its inception in 2000, IASA has developed into a flourishing association with a committed and continuously expanding membership base. The original intent expressed in the Bellagio Charter to provide an alternative to traditional, nation-based American Studies approaches has lost none of its pertinence and urgency. We are confident that the Third World Congress in Lisbon will consolidate and solidify the careful construction work undertaken during the last seven years.
The present issue of RIAS offers an exploration of the loci amoeni of American Studies in our global day and age. The question of place frequently pops up in debates aiming for the decentralization of established American Studies, also on the electronic pages of RIAS (see, most recently, the excellent issue on Cultural Modernity in the Americas edited by Cyraina Johnson-Roullier). But it is seldom explicitly addressed in such very pragmatic terms: What does it entail for IASA to convene in this or that locale in terms of the production of knowledge about the Americas, the organization’s (intended and/or real) audience, its receptivity towards hitherto underrepresented constituencies, and its resonance in the scholarly community at large? For an association which attempts to delocalize or even dislocate established conceptions of ‘America’ in all of its dimensions, it is of crucial importance that it allow itself to pinpoint and reflect upon its axiomatic locations—both real and symbolic—in the world [...]. (Read more in the Editorial)
The Cultural Significance of Modernity in the Americas—RIAS Vol. 2, Winter–Spring (1/2007)Vol 2 No 2 (2007)
In her essay, “La Prieta,” from the collection This Bridge Called My Back (1981), Gloria Anzaldúa speaks of her understanding of herself as a product of her polyglossic, hybrid cultural and racial experience. She writes:
I am a wind-swayed bridge, a crossroads inhabited by whirlwinds … straddling the walls between abysses … Think of me as Shiva, a many-armed and legged body with one foot on brown soil, one on white, one in straight society, one in the gay world, the man’s world, the women’s, one limb in the literary world, another in the working class, the socialist and the occult worlds. A sort of spider woman hanging by one thin strand of web. (205)
For Anzaldúa, this experience is challenged (and challenging) not so much by its multiplicity, as by the incomprehension with which such variousness is often met in the larger world. “What am I?,” she asks. “They would chop me up into little fragments and tag each piece with a label. You say my name is ambivalence? … Who, me confused? Ambivalent? Not so. Only your labels split me.” (205).
Anzaldúa’s rebellion against the imposition of such labels, which, in her view, would shatter the culturally hybrid individual into shards of disconnected, discontinuous cultural and historical experience, forms one of the most important foundations of her work. Her refusal of the cultural injunctions demanding that she choose between her multiple cultural and racial identifications also, however, marks a revelatory moment in the hemispheric study of culture in the Americas. As a quintessential “American,” whose cultural affiliations extend outward like the branches of a tree while finding their roots in a single individual, Anzaldúa describes (through the depiction of her own painful and difficult journey toward self acceptance), a racial, cultural and historical dilemma often neglected, yet crucial to a hemispheric understanding of the cultures and peoples of the Americas. It is, in fact, by this very multiplicity: cultural, racial, national, ethnic, economic, religious and/or historical, that cultural reality of the Americas such as that represented by Anzaldúa’s experience may more fully begin to be studied. Through the historico-spatio-geographical reorganization of culture that Anzaldúa suggests, (and that hemispheric approaches to the study of the Americas often imply), new articulations of identity suggesting alternative modes and possibilities of being, new and challenging cultural realities and new opportunities for cultural encounter and understanding are more profoundly revealed. These alternative perspectives, not linked to one place but, rather, often derived from many, can then lead to numerous untried avenues of critical exploration and investigation, and opening many doors previously closed to knowledge and perception. For example, a hemispheric perspective can suggest the importance of comparative historical approaches to the cultural multiplicity represented by the experiences such as that of Anzaldúa. In addition, hemispheric perspectives might emphasize the significance of examining complicated genealogical affiliations, such as those with which Anzaldúa identifies, across national and geographical boundaries.
The current issue of the Review of International American Studies seeks to examine the notions of “America” and “American” as these have meaning outside of such boundaries, and as these cultural identifications become significant within a hemispheric and comparative, cultural understanding such as that put forward in this issue. Interrogating the notion of “America” from a hemispheric perspective also suggests a simultaneous consideration of the idea of modernity, particularly as concerns the historical interrelationships between various peoples of the Americas (whose beginnings lie to a large degree in the development of the New World and its role in the 16th-century transformation of mercantilism, or early capitalism, to capitalism).
In this instance, modernity becomes one of the conditions within which the type of cultural hybridity and multiplicity about which Anzaldúa has written comes into existence. It also describes one of the most illuminating contexts within which a comparative cultural investigation of hybrid historical realities such as hers may be undertaken. Thus, exploring the cultures of the\Americas from a hemispheric perspective that also recognizes the historical significance of modernity can open up possibilities for crosscultural, multilingual, and transnational dialogue. These possibilities are also difficult, if not impossible, to study adequately in more traditional contexts, since such dialogue does not take established national and/or geographical boundaries as one of its organizing principles [...]. (Read more in the Editorial)
American Studies and the Dilemmas of Multilingualism—RIAS Vol. 2, Summer–Fall (2/2006)Vol 2 No 1 (2006)
The abolition, in the course of the nineteenth century, of the scriptum latinum—Latin composition as a condition for entry into the university—is impossible to separate from the pull towards the language of ‘the people’ during the nationalistic era in European politics. This revocation of Latin as a ‘language requirement’ for higher education entailed both its purification as a ‘classical’ language and the recursive monolingualization of the literary history of the emergent European nation-states, which at that point urgently needed to fortify their precarious political borders on the cultural level. This development has for a large part eclipsed the reality that, until far into the 16th and 17th centuries, Latin was not just a ‘Gelehrtensprache’ but served as a volatile medium of international expression—and of artistic creation for authors as far apart as Francesco Petrarca, Pierre de Ronsard, John Milton, and János Csezmicei—which effortlessly crossed the Atlantic to the New World.
Today, questions like ‘Do you speak American?’ seem to echo the motto that was for a long time inscribed in the statutes of the university of Paris: latine loqui, pie vivere (‘to speak Latin is to live piously’). In more than one respect, English has now taken up the functions that Latin filled for several centuries, until the growing importance of French led to Latin’s gradual demise as a vehicle of international communication. In many educational institutions all over the world, English language tests such as TOEFL can be seen as presentday equivalents of the scriptum latinum. We may well wonder whether and how English will in its turn be fractured into a multiplicity of vernaculars—each representing the voice of ‘the people’—and be declared ‘dead.’ Obviously, contrary to the position of Latin since late Antiquity, English can fall back on a large body of first language speakers from Antigua to Zimbabwe. But is not the split between ‘first’ and ‘second’ language users—like that between ‘living’ and ‘dead’ cultures—itself a construct of a monolingual age now increasingly under pressure (although, obviously, we have always been more multilingual than is often supposed)? [...]", (Read more in the Editorial)
Inaugural Issue—RIAS Vol. 1, Winter–Spring (1/2006)Vol 1 No 1 (2006)
Welcome to RIAS, the Review of International American Studies, the online journal of the International American Studies Association (IASA). IASA, which held its first conference in Leiden in 2003, is organized around the understanding that in the twenty‑first century American Studies, however that term is defined, can be properly discussed only in a global perspective. Many different views have been put forward as to what ‘America’ should mean—country, continent, hemisphere?—but the one thing on which most people are agreed is that in an era of increasing global circulation the international dimensions of American Studies can no longer be ignored. RIAS, which will be available free to all members of IASA, is designed to facilitate that conversation. National associations of American Studies continue to make very valuable contributions to the subject, but much of their focus is necessarily on matters close to home: the protection of local programs, safeguarding faculty positions, attempting to raise the subject’s profile in often difficult circumstances, and so on. IASA, by contrast, offers the possibility of complementary or contrary perspectives which can expose practitioners of American Studies to intellectual outlooks very different from their own. This is not an ‘export’ model of American Studies, but one based upon the idea of reciprocal interaction, of mutual exchange and enlightenment. For academics based in North America or Europe, seeing how things appear from Australasia or Asia, Latin America or Africa, can often appear as a salutary corrective to the insularity of ideas often assumed, wrongly, to enjoy universal validity. From an ideological point of view, IASA might in this sense be said to be an almost deliberately incoherent organization, one that offers its members the prospect of finding their home‑grown views colliding with others working from very different premises.
The purpose of RIAS is simply to enable and promote the wide circulation of different ideas, so as to achieve more of a global balance in the rapidly internationalizing field of American Studies. Many interesting topics have been discussed and debated recently on the IASA Executive Council e‑mail discussion list, and we hope that RIAS will help to bring these and other important issues to the attention of a wider audience. We invite contributions, both in the form of short position papers on topics of general interest, or through notices of forthcoming conferences, calls for papers, observations on developments in scholarship in different parts of the world, and so on. The function of RIAS, as indeed of IASA in general, is to enhance channels of communication among scholars concerned with American Studies in different parts of the world, so as to enable the subject to grow and develop in ways that may not be visible to any of us at the present time. While RIAS has no preconceived academic agenda, it will of course depend crucially for its usefulness on the participation of scholars in many different parts of the world. We hope that this e‑journal will become a network of global intellectual exchange in American Studies, and, to this end, we warmly welcome contributions from all quarters.