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