• Rethinking 1968 and the Global Sixties
    No 2 (2019)
    Special issue, Marta Gara and Virginia Pignagnoli eds.
  • “Watching the Watchmen:” The State of Policing in US Cultural Production
    No 5 (2021)

    US obsession with policing can be traced back as far as John Winthrop’s sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” (climaxed in the noted “the eyes of all people are on us”), delivered in 1630 on board of the Arbella. In one of white America’s foundational texts, the “eyes of all people” stand as an early figuration of panoptical undercurrents in the United States, whereby a professedly metaphysical yet very concrete control is enforced to safeguard social and ethical order. Canonical US literature, from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man also reminds us that order, even when not deferred to the State, has been violently enforced through coercion, stigma, or segregation throughout the history of the nation. Echoing the seminal figure of Esther Prynne, narratives produced by authors as diverse as W. E. B. Du Bois, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and, more recently, Sandra Cisneros, Louise Erdrich, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, are figurations and proofs of the United States’ leviathan policing apparatus and its employment in regulating non-conforming subjects in the name of a perfectly-engineered City Upon a Hill and the capitalistic permutation of its transcendental concept of social order. 

     

    The state systematically marshals the bodies of its citizens through practices such as biopower and necropolitics; in doing so, it also shapes and channels our understanding of race, gender, sexuality, and identity. This is especially evident in the US prison system, with its world-record constellation of institutions that actively re-design the institutional contours of national social inequality while also standing as a demonstration of how unfettered capitalism (even in its neoliberalist guise) predates on minoritarian and oppressed subjects for its reproduction. The recent wave of events across the United States and growing appeals to states of exception have further called attention to systematic police brutality and its role in stabilizing authority as part of the state apparatus. Across the nation, citizens are fighting back against what Herbert Marcuse has called “surplus-repression,” that is, “the restrictions necessitated by social domination,” (1955, 35) that characterize ideology and praxis of advanced industrial societies up to their contemporary neoliberal incarnations. If racialized violence that has been perpetrated since the Federalist Era through both institutional and private forms of racial policing reverberates in the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery; the protesting, marching, and rioting that ensued – culminated in the Defund the Police movement and in the deployment of federal troops to contain protests and protestors – point to the desire of new forms of governance (and self-governance) from the opposite poles of the political spectrum: a counter-apparatus from below, aiming to citizens empowerment and liberation, on the one hand, and what we may call a “neo-conservative revolution,” aimed at preserving old white patriarchal structures. 

    The aim of this Special Issue of JAm It! (Journal of American Studies in Italy) is not only to discuss representations and histories of police and policing across multiple systems but also to analyze (and produce) counter-imaginaries, modes of care that aim at seeing, rather than watching, citizens and bodies. At this sensitive moment in American history, when national understandings of, as Michel Foucault would have it, “disciplin[ing] and punish[ing]” are being especially questioned, we look for contributions that, through the analysis of representations and/or cultural artifacts, frame policing in its fluid connections with the way in which US culture and counterculture have imagined and produced systems of control.

  • Environmental Hazards and Migrations
    No 3 (2020)

    The third issue of JAm It! explores the relations between environmental transformations and migrations in the North American context from a multi-disciplinary perspective. While scholarship in American Studies has produced relevant contributions analyzing the historical and present contingencies of both endogenous and exogenous migratory flows, the complex relations between migrations and ecological change require further inquiry. 

    Since the United Nations Environment Programme’s recognition of environmental refugees as an official category in 1985, scholars from several disciplines have begun to look at the meaningful interconnections among climatic disruptions, ecological transformations, and migratory phenomena. As an example, a discipline that has contributed to the global debate is the growing subfield of Environmental History of Migration (EHM). Equally important is the proliferation of geographical and geopolitical studies addressing the relationship between contemporary migratory issues and political upheavals as a reaction to pressing environmental issues, such as in the case of the Arab Spring, or Central American Farmers. Finally, both literary ecocriticism and ecolinguistics are also unveiling original research angles exploring popular narratives problematizing migrations in a changing eco-biosphere.

    With this issue, JAm It! aims to bridge that research gap with contributions that discuss environmental migrations from/to/within the United States from different methodological lenses, unveiling and highlighting new approaches to this topic which continues to sparkle debate and controversy in contemporary US politics.

     

  • Nationalism: Hyper and Post
    No 1 (2019)

    The first issue of JAm It! tries to explore the intricacies of contemporary U.S. politics by addressing notions of hyper-nationalism and post-nationalism. 

    The last few years have seen a revitalization of hyper-nationalist movements, which are not only exaggerated forms of nationalism but also belie a growing yearning to safeguard established hierarchies based on race, ethnicity, and social status. Fueled by fears of terrorism, racial hostilities, and recent iterations of the vigilante syndrome, these movements rally the most intolerant parts of U.S. consciousness. On the other side of the political spectrum, many anti-nationalist and post-nationalist movements have sprouted out of a transnational outlook, disengaged from notions of national order and control. These reactionary radical sentiments are not only directed at the rising nationalist wave, but are also reared by discursive practices and global narratives that transcend a state’s domestic interests and extend to international struggles for socio-environmental and climate justice.

    Despite the schismatic nature of contemporary U.S. society, spaces of protest, dialogue, and confrontation have proliferated far beyond geographic boundaries. Technological advances have rendered most of these boundaries obsolete and have thus championed new means to express dissent and connect with other dissenting voices across the world to create transnational sites where ideologies, claims, and conflicts are difficult to distinguish or gauge. Given these developments, nationalism and its afterlives become not only problematic but also call for further scrutiny.

  • cover issue four Disentangling the American Patchwork Heritage
    No 4 (2021)

    Only about ten years ago, in his inaugural speech, Barack Obama expounded a reassuring and quasi-utopian view of the United States, by claiming the “patchwork heritage” of the United States to be a strength, as well as the very fabric of its society. He thus drew the fire of those who maintained that such a position would inexcusably downplay the racial contradictions and inequalities that had marked the country’s history. And yet, in the same years, alternative standpoints ardently promoted the multicultural model, defined as an effective realization of cultural pluralism, and hybrid and post-ethnic frameworks were boldly being endorsed. In fact, ever since the Nineties, alongside great efforts to voice the perspective of cultural minorities, the critical discourse in various academic fields has at times highlighted a certain skepticism towards studies privileging an ethnic analytical framework for investigating social dynamics, cultural and literary texts, or even an inclusive multicultural perspective where diverse ethnic viewpoint could co-exist.

    Nonetheless, signifying the variety of cultures composing the United States has been a concern of American literature since its foundational stages, as the multicultural crew of the Pequod in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick testifies. In more recent times, there has been a proliferation of films and television series foregrounding and problematizing the connections among different communities, followed by a wide public acclaim; this element, alongside the international success of authors such as two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead, Susan Abulhava, Rita Ciresi, Joshua Cohen, Myriam Gurba and Ocean Vuong, among many others, confirms that American culture, in a wider perspective, is now more than ever marked by the encounters and clashes of communities of which it is the result. These factors also underline that both the American and the international audience crave for stories that investigate the ways in which the multicultural framework of the United States constantly reshapes itself. While sociological and historical studies inform us about the spaces we inhabit through statistics and surveys, thus pursuing the thorough scientific investigation that this field requires, cultural narratives that resonate with our own experiences unveil the stories of the individuals hidden behind those statistics and surveys.

    The fourth issue of JAm It! (Journal of American Studies in Italy) delves into new critical approaches to the complex and often-fraught multicultural paradigm, whose formulation and (re)conceptualization is far from being exhausted in a country which has never ceased to be a target destination for migrants.