EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION: “FROM THE GROUND UP: EMBODIMENT, RESISTANCE, AND SOVEREIGN VOICES”
BY KEERTI ARORA AND HANNAH HOPKINS
In a 2003 interview, transformative activist and writer Grace Lee Boggs reflected on her organizing work. Boggs shared that “I’ve come to believe that you cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” When we reflect on the work represented in the 2021-2022 volume of the E3W Review of Books, “Iterative Intimacies: Refusing Legacies of the Changing Same,” we hear echoes of Boggs’s call to consider, examine, and act from an understanding of what Senior Editors Sophia Monegro and Candice Lyons called “the intimacies of continents, of bodies, of nations, and of history.” A year since the publication of Volume 22, we have experienced the knots of emerging intimacies and coalitions, the strain of alienation and welcome distance, and (perhaps all at once) the possibility that something transformative might take hold.
Longtime readers of the E3W Review of Books may notice that this year’s volume is a little longer than usual. We’re thrilled to share that the team of new and returning reviewers, Shepherd Editors, and Special Section Editors have helped grow this volume to include 69 reviews. As we’ve worked with this generous and insightful team, we’ve been struck by the degree to which this process has become intertwined with the theme of this year’s review. Represented in these pages are voices from across and beyond The University of Texas at Austin: our reviewers from the Department of English have worked closely with reviewers and editors in the School of Information, Geography rubs elbows with Mexican American Studies, and Anthropology sits alongside American Studies and Curriculum & Instruction. Also represented in this volume is a wide set of demographic interests that bring in varied ethnic and third world contexts and help contribute to timely conversations on the political implications and inherent pluralities of categories such as the global and the local. This is only a small snapshot of the extensive disciplinary web of relations in these pages, and we take these ties to remind us that the coalitions we build together help us approach transformation with difference as an essential asset to our work.
We take the differences in our rootedness—our lived experiences, our disciplinary orientations, our demographic interests, and otherwise—as invitations and imperatives to support one another in resistance. We worked on this Review as lawmakers across the United States sought to eliminate rights for LGBTQIA+ people, for Black and brown communities, for low-wage workers, and for pregnant people. Particularly here in Texas and across the South, programs and courses that address diversity, equity, and inclusion on college campuses are under threat, as are protections to ensure academic freedom to engage equity and justice in the classroom. Marginalized communities continue to face decreased protections against and resources for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, and the risk of re-infection and long-term disability looms large for workers who are increasingly unable to set the conditions of their own work environments. To enumerate everything we’re up against would make this introduction exhausting long before it would be exhaustive, and we’re certain that novel and renewed precarities will surface even after we publish this volume. Shot through with the uncertainty and injustice that we face in this moment, we see that there emerge and remain opportunities to build coalitions. This year’s theme, “From the Ground Up: Embodiment, Resistance, and Sovereign Voices” attempts to capture the way that networks of power and action inhere in and because of places, in communities, and elsewhere.
In use in the United States since at least 1895, “from the ground up” evokes the ways that our foundations come to bear on what we build together. These foundations might be rooted in place, as is the case in Henrik Jaron Schneider’s review of Vanishing Sands: Losing Beaches to Mining or isaac dwyer’s work with Cooling the Tropics: Ice, Indigeneity, and Hawaiian Refreshment. Cindy-Lou Holland’s and Daniel Dawer’s reviews are among those in this volume that remind us of the foundational and transformative potential of classroom spaces as sites of connectedness and belonging. Roots are also manifest in relationship with human and more-than-human others: we see this in Debarati Roy’s attention to The Promise of Multispecies Justice as well as in Alex Voisine’s review of Planetary Longings. We are also inspired by the ways that we experience roots as a process of mediation: technologies help us trace and traverse rootedness across time and distance, and our memory practices shape how we experience archival expressions of what we might consider “the ground”. We read about this sense of rootedness in Shania Montufar’s review of Art for Coexistence: Unlearning the Way We See Migration, Nina Gary’s review of The Medieval Postcolonial Jew, In and Out of Time, Sam Turner’s review of Poetic Operations: Trans of Color Art in Digital Media, and many others in this volume.
Among the reviews we celebrate this year are those highlighting the work of nine UT Austin faculty authors. In this volume, you’ll find reviews of Karma R. Chávez’s The Borders of AIDS: Race, Quarantine, and Resistance; Karen Engle’s The Grip of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Feminist Interventions in International Law; V. Jo Hsu’s Constellating Home: Trans and Queer Asian American Rhetorics; Elizabeth Farfán-Santos’s Undocumented Motherhood: Conversations on Love, Trauma, and Border Crossing; Reverberations of Racial Violence: Critical Reflections on the History of the Border, edited by Sonia Hernández and John Morán González; Martha Menchaca’s The Mexican American Experience in Texas: Citizenship, Segregation, and the Struggle for Equality; Tara Dudley’s Building Antebellum New Orleans: Free People of Color and Their Influence; Domino Renee Perez’s Fatherhood in the Borderlands: A Daughter’s Slow Approach; and Roger Reeves’s Best Barbarian. These reviews also speak to the ways that collaboration between and among graduate students and faculty has always been a cornerstone of The E3W Collective. Many of these faculty authors have been longtime supporters of E3W graduate students and projects, and we are grateful for their ongoing mentorship.
Liz Bender’s “Pedagogies of Care and Belonging: Contemporary Classrooms and Healthcare Access” opens this volume by inviting readers to “create communities of care as an intervention to disrupt institutional oppression”. Of particular interest in the first half of Bender’s section are pedagogical spaces: Cindy-Lou Holland’s, Patrick Sui’s and Daniel Dawer’s reviews analyze classrooms as rife with anti-racist possibility. They explore pedagogical practices that center students’ racialized experiences and identities and interrogate these practices for their capacity to engender community-building and activism. Next, Courtney Welu and Hanuel Lee’s reviews do the decolonizing work of centering the care and resistive practices of those marginalized individuals and communities that are geographically, politically, and/or discursively excluded, other-ed, and marginalized by the US empire.
In their introduction to “Climates of (In)Justice: Geographies, Environment, and Place,” Section Editors Haley Eazor and Debarati Roy remind us of the “socio-cultural ecologies that have the potential to create relations of justice even when structures remain unjust.” Drawing from a broad range of disciplinary expertise, reviewers in this section surface the tensions inherent in unraveling colonial environmental harm and climate catastrophe. Alhelí Harvey’s review of Deserts are Not Empty addresses knowledge and myth-making about deserts “from the lexical to the cartographic,” and her attention to this spatial-rhetorical interplay finds resonance in all of the other reviews in the section. This is particularly the case with Debarati Roy’s review of The Promise of Multispecies Justice and Claire Fitch’s review of Climactic Media, both of which attend to the mediating role of language in climate discourse and environmental action.
Weston Richey and Sarah Frankie Summers’s “Coalitions of Practices and Power: Gender, Sexuality and Resistance” situates feminism and LGBTQ+ studies in the contemporary moment through a transdisciplinary engagement with their varied articulations in a breadth of national, international, and local contexts. Additionally, their section displays a useful, interdisciplinarity-fostering collection of genres; for instance, readers will find the historical and methodological framing of feminist movements in Sarah Frankie Summers’s review of New Feminist Activism, Waves and Generations useful as they read Isabel Ibáñez de la Calle’s review of the short story collection, Chola Salvation or Sardar Hussain’s review of the ethnography, Queer Companions: Religion, Public Intimacy and Saintly Affects in Pakistan.
Section Editors Nandini Majumdar and Kathleen Field, in “Runaway Debt: Precarization, Subversion, and the Refusal to Pay,” identify the ways in which debt functions as an agent of the US empire and as an extension of its hegemonic violence. We are especially appreciative of the ways in which their section roots the theme of this issue, “from the ground up”, in several ethnic, third world, and US empire contexts: not only do readers learn about police brutality and racial capitalism within the US but also the ways in which state-sanctioned oppression and dispossession affect indigenous communities in Latin America, Israel, Palestine, Asia, and Argentina.
In “Networks of Collaboration: Blackness, Indigeneity, and Communities Pursuing Justice”, Holly Genovese brings in communities that have been disproportionately vulnerable to mass incarceration, labor exploitation, and marginalization within both legal systems and activist organizing in the United States. Beginning with Emmanuella Amoh’s review of The New Jim Crow, and Amarainie Marquez’s review of Felon, Genovese foregrounds the injustices perpetrated by the criminal justice system and the blind spots of the current social justice discourse. Keturah Nichols’s review of Black Disability Politics similarly makes visible the labor of disability activists and emphasizes the importance of their work in anti-racist and coalition frameworks. Lastly, F. Joseph Sepúlveda Ortiz’s review of Translating Blackness shifts focus from the experience of race and racialization in the US to black communities outside the US that must “translate a hegemonic US Blackness to render visible their specific struggle”, thus complicating the discursive use of “blackness as a social category of difference”.
Section Editors Nina Gary and Amanda Tovar, in “Markers of Movement: Postcoloniality, Borders, and Migration”, interrogate physical, ideological, and linguistic borders, the conditions that necessitate or enforce movement across them, the resulting politics of loss, displacement, and hybridity as well as the ways in which they register in the body. While Erin N. Wheeler’s review of Good Maya Women explores the complex and integral relationships between migrating communities and their cultural practices, Amanda Tovar’s review of Undocumented Motherhood and Reyna M. Flores’s review of Reverberations of Racial Violence highlight the experiences of communities that cross the US-Mexico border and find themselves at the violent nexus of immigration disparities and detention centers. This section also explores contemporary transnational conversations such as Angela Villamizer’s review of Against Marginalization that analyzes Jose O. Fernandez’s comparative analysis of black and latinx literatures and Nanjun Zhou and Sheyda Aisha Khaymaz’s reviews that interrogate the weight, complexity, meanings, and futurities of the ‘global’.
In their introduction, Section Editors Ali Gunnells and Kevin Gibbs draw readers’ attention to the surface: from the start, “Infrastructures of Memory: Information, Archives, and Media Studies” is interested in our everyday interplays with digital technologies, particularly the technologies that make research and academic writing possible. Like many reviews in this section, Ana A. Rico’s review of Feminista Frequencies: Community Building through Radio in the Yakima Valley takes a careful look at the role of archives in cultural memory. Rico engages how particular archival choices “[challenge] the erasure of Chicana/os in radio broadcasting history, [highlighting] how these practices are alive and well in today’s digital media.”
“How do we construct the world we want to live in?” Section Editors Allison Pujol and Jack Murphy begin their introduction to “Ecologies of Solidarity: Organizing, Labor, and Activism” with a question that locates labor relations in sweeping national movements and everyday workplaces alike. In so doing, Pujol & Murphy draw attention to a broad history of organizing for justice. As Ali Eren Yanik argues in his review of Elizabeth Quay Hutchison’s Workers Like All the Rest of Them: Domestic Service and the Rights of Labor in Twentieth-century Chile, texts represented in this section “[challenge] both the historical and political invisibility” of marginalized people, and Clarice A. Blanco and Trent Wintermeier are among the reviewers who emphasize the critical role of authors’ experiential knowledge in the texts that engage in this challenge.
Inspired by Saidiya Hartman’s “Venus in Two Acts,” Section Editors Michael Vaclav and I. B. Hopkins frame the expanse of genres and forms represented in “Accounts of Dissent and Resilience: Literary Studies, Design, and Expressive Cultures” as a counter to the “many fictions underlying even the most entrenched histories.” In their reviews of Ekow Eshun’s In the Black Fantastic and Roger Reeves’s Best Barbarian, Andrea L. Richardson and Paige Welsh (respectively) demonstrate careful attention to what Richardson describes as the ways that “Black artists envision and convey new possibilities of Blackness despite the trauma that informs the African diasporic experience.” This section closes with Liz Bender’s review of Design to Live: Everyday Inventions from a Refugee Camp, in which Bender highlights the urgent need for collaboration and partnership in addressing the “humanitarian design gap,” bringing together the interdisciplinary sweep of scholarship represented in this section.
To return to a question we shared earlier in this introduction, Section Editors Jack Murphy and Allison Pujol put it simply: “How do we construct the world we want to live in?” We hope that the texts and reviews represented in this volume of the E3W Review of Books demonstrate that such a project of building happens in complex webs of relation, where vibrant communities exist along ecotones of powerful difference. While we can’t answer that question for everyone, we hope that one way we can approach building the world we want is (quite literally) from the ground up, as members of coalition rooted in place— with archives that recount the complexity, messiness, and triumph of our shared histories—and grounded in self-determination that helps us work toward justice, together.
 Boggs, Grace Lee. Interview by Adrian Harewood and Tom Keefer. July 22, 2003. Published online October 8, 2009 by Upping the Anti. https://uppingtheanti.org/journal/article/01-revolution-as-a-new-beginning