The CyberSalon Over forty Public Culture readers thus far have signed up for the Electronic Online Discussion announced in the Spring 1994 issue. This group of people, and the “space” where we gather to discuss and debate readings in Public Culture, constitute the CyberSalon.
For our first topic of discussion, the editors suggested Michael Shapiro’s essay “Moral Geographies and the Ethics of Post-sovereignty ,” in the Spring 1994 issue. Though the pace of the discussion has been relatively sedate, comments have been without exception thoughtful and substantive, and have raised a number of important questions. The editorial office threw out the first question: “How can we apply Shapiro’s framework, and his notions of ‘post-sovereignty’ and ‘moral geographies,’ to understand what is going on in Bosnia? How is it useful, and what are its limitations?” Here are some snippets of the ensuing conversation, to give you a sense of the character of the discussion conducted in this space:
“. . . I do not see how Shapiro’s concepts of ‘post-sovereignty’ and ‘moral geography’ apply to Bosnia or, for that matter, to much else actually going on in the world at this time. These concepts may fit quite nicely within debates occurring among certain political scientists and specialists in international relations, but they seem quite distant from concrete situations of any sort. I think that Shapiro tries too hard to stretch his territorial imagery to fit around his ideas about difference. In the end, his suggestions about recovering histories and the creation of the subjectivities of ‘peoples’ would seem to recreate the same sort of thinking he sets out to denounce, that of the nation-state . . .” (David Beriss)
“. . . There is a lot that I liked in Michael Shapiro’s essay, and I think that it is very important to ‘denaturalize’ the nation-state. My questions (and concerns)come later on in the paper. He writes, ‘ethical sensitivity involves a commitment to recognition of peoples without reifying space or neglecting the coherent identity attached to the historical narratives through which peoples achieve their meaning and value’ (498). What is meant, finally, by ‘peoples?’ The article at times seems to fall back on a fetishization of ‘the people.’ Any notion of ‘the people’ is ultimately constructed. I don’t think that Shapiro would disagree with this, but I think that the article could use this emphasis . . .” (J. Macgregor Wise)
‘‘. . . Is theory something to be ‘applied’ (and is it ‘bad‘ if not)? Why is Bosnia so often the example used, now, to cast suspician on works of theory? . . .How clear is it that the Bosnian conflagration confounds Shapiro’s meditation on post-sovereignty? , . . The essay is at once an analytical and ethical project. Ethically, it tried to ‘think (beyond) the nation’ in the sense of helping to at once highlight the politics of territorialism and loosen the hold that territorialism exerts on most contemporary political imaginaries. Like many other writers in the journal, Shapiro is trying to think about political identifications, solidarities, and ethics that don’t map neatly onto the terrain of the state. The essay hardly delivers an alternative democratic ethic or postsovereign imaginary in a tidy bundle, but perhaps it helps along the project of rethinking by opening some productive conceptual spaces for thinking about political spaces. I think reflecting on postsovereign ethics is a productive if far from complete task . . .” (Mark T. Reinhardt)
All are welcome to the CyberSalon. If you would like your name to be added to the list of participants, please send an e-mail message titled “Add me to online discussion” to public-culture-journal@uchicago. edu and we will send you easy-to- follow instructions.
Public Culture Survey Results Many thanks to those of you who completed and returned the Public Culture Survey included with the Spring 1994 issue. The editorial group was pleased to see the profile of Public Culture’s public that emerged from these responses. You are indeed an interdisciplinary group, with no more than 35% in any one academic field, and including a good number of students, people working outside the academy, and people residing outside the United States. About 75 % of respondents indicate that they are involved in some form of advocacy work, and about the same percentage regularly use e-mail.
Public Culture’s subscribers are a loyal bunch: over 60% have subscribed for more than two years, and some 32% have subscribed for four years or more. Subscriptions are what keeps a journal like Public Culture alive-thank you for your support. Public Culture’s continued growth and vitality also owes much to your own informed word-of-mouth advocacy; a considerable number of respon-dents indicated that they had first learned about Public Culture from a friend or colleague.
The editorial group particularly values your many substantive comments. Respondents offered compelling suggestions for topics they would like to see addressed more frequently or more fully in the pages of Public Culture. Strong feelings -both positive and negative - were also voiced about “special issues” in which all or most of the essays focus on a particular topic (e.g., the Rushdie Debate, the Gulf War, Aijaz Ahmad’s In Zlzeory). Partly in response to your comments, the editorial group has decided to aim for one special issue each year (out of three issues), as the best balance between the breadth and variety that distinguishes Public Culture, and the depth of sustained discussion that a thematic issue allows. We are also considering compiling a Public Culture Reader to bring together some of the now-classic Public Culture essays that you use most in teaching and in your own work.
Special thanks to those of you who offered thoughtful, sometimes critical, feedback on a variety of editorial issues-pointing out patterns of emphasis that have emerged in the journal over time, taking issue with Public Culture’s silence on other debates (e.g., Bosnia and Eastern Europe), questioning how essays are selected. All of these are important questions, with which the editors continue to grapple.
The Black Public Sphere This special issue of Public Culture is devoted to The Black hblic Sphere. It draws in part upon contributions made at two conferences: the first one, “Toward an Ethnography of the Institutions of Caring in the Black Community” was organized by the Africana Studies Program of New York University, and the other, “The Black Public Sphere in the Reagan-Bush Era” was organized by the Chicago Humanities Institute of the University of Chicago in conjunction with the Center for Transcultural Studies. These initiatives benefited from the commitment and counsel of Arjun Appadurai, Laurent Berlant, John Brenkman, Carla Kaplan, Manthia Diawara, Benjamin Lee, Thomas Holt and Ken Warren.
New Personnel in the Editorial Office Lise McKean joined the Public Culture editorial office in October 1993 as the managing editor. In addition to her wit and calm in the face of disorder, she brings to Public Culture publishing and editorial skills. Lise was an early Public Culture reader and her ongoing research on the Hindu nationalist movement and its transnational forms situate her squarely in the topics of interest to the journal. Her book, Selling Spirituality: Religious Leaders and the Hindu Nationalist Movement is in press with the University of Chicago Press.
Janelle Taylor brought her considerable energy, intelligence and humor to Public Culture Public Culture as editorial intern, managing editor and special projects assistant. Janelle has left the editorial office to return to full time Ph. D. dissertation research. The two years she has been with the office have been demanding, initially because of the year-long chaos caused by the move of the journal from Philadelphia to Chicago (in the fall of 1992), and subsequently because of my year-long struggle with breast cancer. Janelle has risen to every occasion and I am personally and professionally grateful to her. We all wish her well in her new ventures.
Finally, Caroline Cleaves, who rounded out the Public Culture office has left to pursue full time her Ph.D. in anthropology. We will miss Caroline’s persistent effort to bring order to the unruly area of submissions and her ability to do so with tact and good humor. The challenges of serving as editorial intern have been taken on by two new members of the staff, graduate students Shao Jing and Ora Gelley, who promise to bring good things to the journal.