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States of Emergency

States of Emergency: The Object of American Studies

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    States of Emergency
    Book Description:

    The contributors to this volume argue that for too long, inclusiveness has substituted for methodology in American studies scholarship. The ten original essays collected here call for a robust comparativism that is attuned theoretically to questions of both space and time.States of Emergencyasks readers to engage in a thought experiment: imagine that you have an object you want to study. Which methodologies will contextualize and explain your selection? What political goals are embedded in your inquiry? This thought experiment is taken up by contributors who consider an array of objects--the weather, cigarettes, archival material, AIDS, the enemy, extinct species, and torture. The essayists recalibrate the metrics of time and space usually used to measure these questions. In the process, each contributes to a project that redefines the object of American studies, reading its history as well as its future across, against, even outside the established grain of interdisciplinary practice.Contributors:Srinivas Aravamudan, Duke UniversityIan Baucom, Duke UniversityChris Castiglia, The Pennsylvania State UniversityRuss Castronovo, University of Wisconsin-MadisonWai Chee Dimock, Yale UniversityNan Enstad, University of Wisconsin-MadisonSusan Gillman, University of California, Santa CruzRodrigo Lazo, University of California, IrvineRobert S. Levine, University of MarylandAnne McClintock, University of Wisconsin-MadisonKenneth W. Warren, University of Chicago

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0456-5
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction The Study of the American Problems
    (pp. 1-16)

    What is the object of American studies? This opening salvo really asks two questions. What does “American studies” study, and what does it want? Some would say that the questionisthe problem. “Must self-identification as an Americanist put one under the obligation to be an upholder or subverter of American institutions?”¹ Why should American studies take upon itself the call to endorse a program, especially one saddled with all sorts of nationalist connotations, more than any other field of literary and cultural studies? To say that the nationisthe self-evident truth of the field simply states a tautology....

  5. Rogue States and Emergent Disciplines
    (pp. 17-35)

    The relationship between the state and the discipline is always at issue for the interdisciplinary venture of American studies, from past inception to current obsession. Is the venture an ontology of the nation, an instrument in the tool kit of the state, or a paradigm for the liberation of citizen-subjects from the state’s clutches? A responsible scholarly procedure would map the internal dynamics of the discipline and measure the long arm of the state through various temporal moments of knowledge production, eventually producing a diachronic account of the development of American studies. Thereby situating itself, the discipline could map its...

  6. Migrant Archives New Routes in and out of American Studies
    (pp. 36-54)

    The history of the modern archive is inextricable from the establishment of nation-states. In various parts of the world, including France in 1790 and numerous countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the establishment of a “national archive” followed a revolutionary break from monarchy or colonialism. Archive and nation came together to grant each other authority and credibility: the archive contained documents and records that supposedly spoke to and about the state, while the nation granted a certain cachet to an archive, elevating it above its local and regional counterparts. The continuing influence of that institutional formation is evident in...

  7. Toxicity and the Consuming Subject
    (pp. 55-68)

    In October 2006,National Geographic Magazinefeatured an article and photographic spread entitled “Pollution Within.” Reporter David Ewing Duncan had himself tested for 320 toxic chemicals and found that 165 of them lurked within his body, including pcbs, ddt, dioxin, mercury, and pbdes (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) found in flame retardants. In fact, Duncan’s level of one particularly toxic pbde was ten times the estimated average in U.S. citizens, and two hundred times the estimated average in Sweden, where the chemical is banned. pbdes are found in, among other things, “mattresses, carpets, the plastic casing of televisions, electronic circuit boards, automobiles,”...

  8. Past Burning The (Post-)Traumatic Memories of (Post-)Queer Theory
    (pp. 69-87)

    Queer theory burns me up.

    Among the incendiary elements in much contemporary queer theory, we might focus on three: first, its increasing neglect of aids — not only the past and continuing devastation of sexual culture in the United States but also the role that aids, aids activism, and aids theory played in the generation of queer theory; second, its focus on negative affect — shame, abjection, grief — to the exclusion of the affects that characterized the sexual revolution, including exuberance, defiant pride, exorbitant pleasure, giddiness, enthusiastic innocence, outrageous optimism, loyalty, and love; third, the conversion of epistemology into...

  9. Paranoid Empire Specters from Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib
    (pp. 88-115)

    The question is still open: what is the purpose of Guantánamo Bay? Is it a prison for “terrorists”? Is it an interrogation camp for suspects? Or is it perhaps something altogether more harrowing?

    By now it has been established that most of the men and, yes, the teenagers imprisoned, and many of them tortured at Guantánamo are neither terrorists nor “enemy combatants” but innocent people.¹ By now it has also been established that most of the men and, yes, the women and children imprisoned, and many of them tortured, at Abu Ghraib and other U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan...

  10. Taking the Measure of the Black Atlantic
    (pp. 116-123)

    The continuing prominence of “Black Atlantic” as a key term in the lexicon of black literary and cultural studies and beyond derives largely from the success of Paul Gilroy’s 1993 book,The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousnessin which Gilroy set out to break what he saw as the virtual stranglehold of a United States–centered black studies regime on the field of black cultural study. Gilroy sought to shift the focus of scholarly analysis from cultural practices within U.S. national boundaries to a consideration of routes of transit connecting the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa in...

  11. Cicero’s Ghost The Atlantic, the Enemy, and the Laws of War
    (pp. 124-142)

    Against “an unjust enemy,” Immanuel Kant asserts in a startling passage ofThe Metaphysics of Morals, “the rights of a state … are unlimited in quantity or degree.”¹ The claim startles because in the immediately preceding passages of his text, in an extended section on “International Right,” Kant has been working to ameliorate his prior citation of Cicero’s famously bleak assertion “inter arma, silent leges” (in times of war, the laws are silent) by deducing a silent law resilient within the classical wartime silencing of the law, a set of wartime rights, restrictions, and principles that would grant “states …...

  12. World History according to Katrina
    (pp. 143-160)

    How does Hurricane Katrina change our understanding of the United States, the lengths and widths of its history, as well as its place in the life of the planet? As a catastrophe that casts into doubt the efficacy and security of the nation, what alternatives does it suggest, what other forms of shelter does it point to, what ways does it organize human beings into meaningful groups? And how might these nonstandard groupings help us rethink the contours of the humanities, in relation to both world literature, a field already well developed, and world history, a field that perhaps still...

  13. American Studies in an Age of Extinction
    (pp. 161-182)

    With the help of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, this essay asks how we might think about the critical work of American studies in an age of extinction. Concerns that life on the planet may be coming to an end are pervasive, and arguably they define our present moment. Anxieties about nuclear annihilation were everywhere in the 1950s and 1960s, and those anxieties remain with us today. But at the turn into the twenty-first century there are added fears about global warming, apocalyptic terrorist plots, mutating killer viruses, and sundry other dark scenarios (such as computers one day turning...

    (pp. 183-186)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 187-203)