Editors’ Note

Volume 34, number 3, marks our fifth issue and the completion of the journal’s first full year in its new home at Columbia University, under new editorship. We’re proud of the journal’s redesign and equally excited by the conversations the journal has staged this past year. The themed sections occupy most of the journal’s content. They have involved  the  exploration of a shared theme or concept in order to generate scholarly density  around a topic,  even as the  diverse  perspectives of individual contributors show the  many  possible iterations and  modes of inquiry that  are adequate to putatively similar  objects  of inquiry. In addition, the  themed sections reiterate our  commitment to engaging theoretical frames  of reference that  put  the  regions of CSSAAME ’s focus into  conversation with each other, often through a somewhat broad interpretation of the possibilities and perils of comparison: some of our  contributors have explored analogy,  connection, comparison, and  family resemblance as tools for addressing global  genealogies and  shared analytic  fields; others have been equally  comfortable refusing to bring apparently commensurable locales  into  proximity with each  other and  to critique the  limits of comparison as method, whether implicitly  or explicitly.

Our first themed section for the year, “Insurgent Thought,” explored black, anticaste, and “Muslim” political thought as a set of cross-cutting, interrelated intellectual traditions each engaging with, and altering, Euro-American conceptions of politics and political subjectivity. What becomes apparent in this process is the  global  significance of the  interwar era,  and  later  the  Cold  War era,  for mapping trajectories of thought and  activism in the  non-Western world.  Meanwhile, “Postcolonial Legalism” addressed postcolonial constitutionalism as a key site for exploring the discrepant political histories of transition, revolution, and ideological transformation that shaped social life and everyday practice in the aftermath of colonization. In particular, essays have explored the relationship between the unique declamatory logics of constitutional enunciation, on the one hand, and its impact on the often-violent processes of political identification, on the other. The present volume turns to questions of the built environment, both physical and intellectual. The essays in the first section, “Life of Infrastructure,” explore the ways social actors think about physical infrastructure and sometimes take it as a focus of collective life. While infrastructures of waste, water, energy, and transport enable and transform ways of thinking and living collectively, the essays show, they can also interrupt and inhibit them.

The  essays in the  section “The Indian Ocean and  Other Middle Easts” challenge the  traditional frame of Middle East specialists  that  has tended to foreground the  history  and  politics  of the  core  Ottoman  provinces of Egypt, Turkey, and  Greater Syria at the  cost of other Middle Easts. By taking into account the Indian Ocean, this new set of modern histories centered on the Arabian Peninsula manages to escape the narratives of the “oil curse” by grounding the study of the region in a deeper nineteenth- and early twentieth-century past.

The volume closes with a book forum, reflecting on the present terrain of imperial historiography through an engagement with Julian Go’s Patterns of Empire: The British and American Empires, 1688 to the Present. As the contributors demonstrate, the afterlife of empire shapes not only our present but also the narratives we deploy to understand it. This makes it all the more important for historians to challenge the traditional narrative forms and preoccupations of imperial history by marking the contingent and convoluted trajectories of past imperial projects.

We would  like  to  thank Shahzia Sikander for  permission to  use  her  art work  on  the  cover of all three issues of volume 34. We recently had the chance to organize a discussion with Sikander about her work and the broader question of con- temporary art and South Asia it raises. That conversation will be included in a future issue.

Finally, readers will note that the journal has featured a number of established scholars but an equal number at an early stage in their professional careers. This reflects our commitment to incubating innovative scholarship within the Western academy and, more important, to reaching out to intellectual networks in those parts of the world that constitute CSSAAME’s regional focus. The journal is as much a product of those who read and contribute to it as it is an instantiation of the vision and direction of its editors. We look forward to the challenge of building new bodies of theory and frames of reference together with an expanding circle of reader-contributors.

© 2014 by Duke University Press