A special issue of African Economic History, “Colonial Economic History in West Africa: The Gold Coast and Gambia in Comparative Perspective,” reconsiders the comparative place of economic frameworks in British colonies in West Africa. One of the issue’s important aims is to emphasize the difference in divergent spaces, between the “profitable” colony of the Gold Coast and the “economic drain” of The Gambia colony. Edited by George M. Bob-Milliar and Toby Green, the issue is also characterized by new and distinctive archival research from archives in the countries considered; this empirical detail places the economic impact of colonialism in an important new light.
In August 2019 we approached colleagues and Weggefährten of Hans Adler and informed them of Hans’s retirement as Editor and Co-Editor of Monatshefte after nearly two decades of service. Along with good wishes for his retirement sent by Rüdiger Campe, Ritchie Robertson, Gerhard Sauder, and Ulrich Gaier, we received and collected these statements that celebrate Hans and speak to his work not only as an editor, but also his contributions to German Studies more generally.
With all good wishes,
Hannah V. Eldridge and Sonja E. Klocke, Editors, Monatshefte
From Rolf Goebel:
I have had the great pleasure of working with Hans Adler as editor of Monatshefte on several occasions, most recently in connection with publishing an article on Hölderlins Erinnerungsmusik (Hölderlin’s Music of Memory) in the journal. Under Adler’s experienced leadership, Monatshefte, one of the most respected and oldest, perhaps the oldest, venue for German studies in the U.S., has continued to offer a wide range of essays exploring themes in literary criticism, cultural studies, and media theory, exploring classical as well as lesser known or unjustly neglected writers while engaging in important debates on new methodologies. I really cannot think of anyone who did a more thorough copy editing job, responded more quickly to questions, was more patient with my tendency to submit yet another round of minor corrections, and, perhaps most importantly, succeeded in speeding up the peer review process to a degree that other journals would be wise to emulate. During the revise-and-resubmit phase, he knew how to use his admirable gift of academic diplomacy in adjudicating any disagreements between the reviewers’ suggestions and my own defenses. Hans Adler will be dearly missed after stepping down as editor, but I am sure he’ll enjoy the extra time for continuing to pursue his scholarly activities and whatever else he plans to do now!
Dr. Rolf Goebel, Distinguished Professor of German, The University of Alabama in Huntsville
From John Ferguson:
I’ve had the privilege of working on every issue of Monatshefte with Hans since the fall of 2013. Always the professional, Hans always has time for a quick quip. I think the most valuable thing I learned from him is the value of scholarship and education. When he told me about being a young child in post-WWII Germany, it was made clear to me that he was eternally grateful for the opportunities given to him in his life—and that you can never take that for granted. I am positive you will continue to do great things, Hans, even in your “retirement.”
John Ferguson, University of Wisconsin Press, Journals Production Manager
From Sabine Gross:
The eighteen years of overlap between Hans Adler’s time as Monatshefte General Editor and my service as Book Review Editor were a period of enjoyable collaboration and of continued conversation about Monatshefte. As Hans took on the role of General Editor, he started thinking about new initiatives. He inaugurated the popular series “Neu gelesen – wieder gelesen” that Monatshefte featured for a number of years; he intensified outreach to guest editors who contributed exciting Monatshefte Special Issues; and he was happy to work with me when I began the practice of soliciting “review articles” for Monatshefte, a combination of book review/essay/Forschungsbericht that crossed the boundary between my responsibilities and his. But perhaps most importantly, he was firm in his stance that Monatshefte should represent the broadest range of scholarship in German, with no allegiance to specific subdisciplines, schools of thinking, or intellectual profiles. It is not least this breadth and the absence of dogma that has contributed to the continued success of Monatshefte. Thank you, Hans, for almost two decades of dedicated editorial leadership!
Dr. Sabine Gross, Professor of German at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Monatshefte Book Review Editor
From Mike Lützeler:
9. August 2019, Langnau im Emmental – ein Gruß von Mike Lützeler
Gerade bin ich, mit Sulzer zu sprechen, auf einer Berg-Reise durch einige Oerter der Schweiz, sitze hier im Sonnenschein mit dem Ferien-Blick auf das zerklüftete Emmental. Am Horizont strahlen die verschneiten Gipfel von Eiger, Mönch und Jungfrau, weit weg und doch wie zum Greifen nahe. Das Wetter ist völlig aufgeklärt und so leuchten mir Deine Auslassungen über Horizont und Idylle, Synästhesie und Aisthesis, Anschauung und Synonymie, Utopie und Imagination, Moral und Eudaimonie noch unmittelbarer ein als beim ersten Lesen im Verlauf der Jahre.
Sonja Klocke schrieb mir, dass Du die Edition der “Monatshefte” nach siebzehn Jahren jungen Kolleginnen anvertraust. So sind Dankesworte fällig. Wenn Du nichts anderes in Deinem Leben geleistet hättest, als die “Monatshefte” herauszugeben, würdest Du mehr als genug für unsere Profession getan haben. Du hast die Zeitschrift nicht lediglich fortgeführt, sondern auf eine höhere wissenschaftliche Ebene gebracht. Die nun 120 Jahre alten “Monatshefte” (die inzwischen längst zur “Vierteljahrsschrift” mutiert sind) gehören zu den allerbesten Periodika des Fachs. Du hast die Niveausteigerung ohne allen Lärm, ohne grässliche Reklame zustandegebracht, einfach durch das Bestehen auf hohen Maßstäben der Edition einer Fachzeitschrift. Verdienstvollerweise hast Du die regelmäßigen Information zur Profession beibehalten (über die einzelnen German Departments, die Dissertationen, die Beförderungen, Todesfälle etc.). Und das Schöne ist auch, dass Du sicher sein kannst, dass Deine beiden Nachfolgerinnen ihre Sache ausgezeichnet machen werden.
Aber die Arbeit als ‘editor in chief’ war nur ein Teil Deines Beitrags zum Fach. Wir alle wissen, was wir Dir als Experten in Sachen Aufklärungsliteratur zu verdanken haben, denn wer heute über Ästhetiken und Kulturtheorien von Herder, Baumgarten, Kant, Schiller und Sulzer forscht, wird dankbar zu Deinen vorbildlichen Arbeiten greifen. Das gilt besonders für die Herderologen, denen Dein ‘Companion’ und die Studie zur “Prägnanz des Dunklen” eine willkommene Untersuchung mit neuen und anschließbaren Einsichten bedeutete. Und nun die große Sulzer-Edition, für die Du den Humboldt-Forschungspreis erhalten hast, und die Du gemeinsam mit der Kollegin Décultot herausgibst.
Wir lernten uns im unruhigen akademischen Jahr 1967/68 an der FU Berlin kennen. Damals leitete ich (begleitend zur Emrich-Vorlesung über den modernen Roman) ein Broch/Joyce-Tutorium, in dem wir “Die Schlafwandler” und den “Ulysses” diskutierten. Du hast vor einigen Jahren einen Band mit dem Titel “Protest und Verweigerung” zusammengestellt. Der erinnerte mich (nur vom Titel her) an den Emrich-Band “Protest und Verheißung”, den wir damals (Mitte der 1960er Jahre) lasen. Ich verbrachte das folgende akademische Jahr 1968/69 als Fulbright-Stipendiat an der Indiana University. Das war eine Universität nach meinem Geschmack. Ich stellte mir die anderen US-Hochschulen von vergleichbarer Qualität ähnlich vor, was sie ja waren, denn überall gab es eine gute Beziehung zwischen Lehrenden und Lernenden, und man brauchte nicht Assistent eines Ordinarius zu werden, sondern konnte gleich nach der Dissertation seine Professorenlaufbahn beginnen.
Wir hatten uns aus den Augen verloren, aber dann wurdest Du lange nach der Dissertation von 1980 (“Soziale Romane im Vormärz”), jedoch bald nach der Habilitation über Herder an der Universität Bochum Kollege am German Department der University of Wisconsin, die seit Bestehen des Fachs in Amerika eine Art Leuchtturmfunktion hat. Schon 1968/69 merkte ich schnell, wie wichtig die Deutschabteilungen im Mittelwesten waren: Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois – lauter Staatsuniversitäten mit exzellenten German Departments, die auch international bekannt waren und einen Austausch mit deutschen Kollegen und Kolleginnen pflegten. Unvergesslich der erste Wisconsin Workshop (“Die sogenannten Zwanziger Jahre”), den Jost Hermand und Reinhold Grimm im Herbst 1969 veranstalteten. Ich besuchte ihn und lernte dort auch Egon Schwarz kennen. Gerade bei den Wisconsin Workshops hast Du in den letzten Jahrzehnten aktiv mitarbeiten können und – gemeinsam mit Deinen Kolleginnen und Kollegen – Veranstaltungen mit internationaler Ausstrahlung zusammengestellt. Man darf das inspirierende Zusammenspiel von regelmäßigem Workshop und kontinuierlich erscheinender Zeitschrift nicht unterschätzen. Auch habe ich mich gefreut, dass wir acht Jahre lang im Vorstand der American Friends of Marbach kooperieren konnten.
Da wir nun beide Mitte siebzig sind, wünsch ich Dir noch viel produktive Zeit. Jetzt bleibt mehr Freiheit für Arbeiten auf Deinen Spezialgebieten. So solltest Du dafür sorgen, dass die Herausgeber anderer Zeitschriften mehr zu tun bekommen. Vor allem aber Gesundheit und Wohlergehen wünscht Dir Dein Mike.
Dr. Paul Michael Lützeler, Rosa May Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities at Washington University, St. Louis, and Editor in Chief of the yearbook Gegenwartsliteratur
From Carsten Zelle, a document from the outset of Hans’s career:
Hans Adlers erstes Proseminar am Germanistischen Institut der Ruhr-Universität Bochum, das er als wissenschaftlicher Assistent (m.d.V.b. = mit der Vertretung beauftragt) im Kommentierten Vorlesungsverzeichnis im WS 1979/80 ankündigt:
mit herzlichem Gruß aus Bochum.
Carsten Zelle (ehemaliger Herausgeber der Zeitschrift Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert)
Prof. Dr. Carsten Zelle, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
From John A. McCarthy:
Twenty years as editor of the Monatshefte is a very long time. Most academics find the task so demanding that six years proves, on average, to be the limit. During that extended period Hans Adler and the journal have become nigh synonymous. His tenure as editor was marked by a keen eye for excellence, a desire for consistency, and an eager thoroughness. What is even more astounding is the fact that editing the Monatshefte was but one of several oversight projects pursued simultaneously. The number of volumes he edited in those years is quite astonishing.
What I recall in particular was a project on “Measuring the World” for a special issue of the journal. He asked me to review the hundred-page typescript, catching me at an unusually busy time when I had said “yes” to too many solicitations for evaluation and was struggling to meet my own publishing deadlines. It really was not a felicitous moment for me. Yet, Hans had developed a powerfully persuasive, mellifluous style that is well designed to encourage potential reviewers to say “yes” when leaning toward “no.” I told him that, even if I were somehow able to fit the review into my schedule, I could not guarantee meeting his (and the Press’s) deadline, which was a mere 3–4 weeks away. A quick review revealed the eclectic contributions to be quite interesting with a common thread running through them. I explained further that I am in the habit of reviewing manuscripts meticulously, looking to see how each chapter of a monograph or each essay in a collection contributes to the sense of a cogent whole. If I only had four weeks, the best I could do is to give the manuscript a cursory review, too little to reveal potential problems. Hans confirmed that he wished to ensure the excellence of each contribution. That was more important. He subsequently persuaded the University of Wisconsin Press to extend the submission deadline by a couple of weeks, and I took on the task. The revised essays did, in fact, appear in September 2016 (108.3). Hans Adler’s management of the review process in this particular instance is surely representative of all his editorial actions on behalf of the Monatshefte.
To be sure, I was predisposed to assist him with the review of the special issue of the journal because of my prior experience of him (and of his work). Our paths first crossed in 1983. Our memories of the encounter diverge a bit, but the essence remains unchanged. He remembers our meeting in Minneapolis/St. Paul during his first trip to the USA, while I recall meeting him at the MLA conference in New York City. He gave me a copy of his Soziale Romane im Vormärz. Literatursemiotische Studie (1980), which I read immediately. It convinced me that Hans Adler is someone with whom I should remain in contact. Thus, our first meeting was a propitious start to a long association during which we ran parallel courses, interconnecting at various points. We share many intellectual interests in common, e.g., regarding the Enlightenment, science and literature, philosophy and literature, aesthetics, and individual writers (Leibniz, Baumgarten, Kant, Herder). His joining the German and Comparative Literature faculty at Wisconsin was one of the smartest moves Wisconsin has made for their already vigorous programs. His career trajectory since then (1990/91) has been stellar, marked, as noted, by his dedication to maintaining and enhancing the role of the Monatshefte as a primary venue for German Studies. He will be missed.
Dr. John A. McCarthy, Professor Emeritus of German and Comparative Literature and Professor of European Studies, Vanderbilt University
Volume 111 #4 of Monatshefte, the final issue with Hans Adler as a coeditor, is now available. Browse the table of contents here.
About Monatshefte: Monatshefte has appeared continuously since 1899 and has been published at the University of Wisconsin–Madison since 1927. A quarterly journal devoted to German literature and culture, Monatshefte offers articles on topics from all periods of German literature and book reviews of current scholarship in German studies. Monatshefte also publishes extensive topic-focused review articles intermittently. The winter issue of each volume contains “Personalia,” a comprehensive listing of German studies faculty and departments in the United States and Canada, as well as a list of all PhD theses that have been defended in the preceding year.
As 2019 wraps up, we take a look back at the most read journal articles published this year. The following list presents the most popular article from each of our journals. Many are freely available to read until the end of January.
African Economic History: “The Politics of African Freehold Land Ownership in Early Colonial Zimbabwe, 1890–1930” by Joseph Mujere and Admire Mseba
Arctic Anthropology: “Farming in the Extreme—Animal Management in Late Medieval and Early Modern Northern Finland” by Maria Lahtinen and Anna-Kaisa Salmi
Contemporary Literature: “Don DeLillo, Madison Avenue, and the Aesthetics of Postwar Fiction” by Aaron Derosa
Ecological Restoration: “Five Decades of Wetland Soil Development of a Constructed Tidal Salt Marsh, North Carolina, USA” by Aaron Noll, Courtney Mobilian, and Christopher Craft
Ghana Studies: “Descendant Epistemology” by Ebony Coletu
Journal of Human Resources: “Teacher Effects on Complex Cognitive Skills and Social-Emotional Competencies” by Matthew A. Kraft
Land Economics: “Adaptation, Sea Level Rise, and Property Prices in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed” by Patrick Walsh, Charles Griffiths, Dennis Guignet, and Heather Klemick
Landscape Journal: “Core Knowledge Domains of Landscape Architecture” by William N. Langley, Robert C. Corry, and Robert D. Brown
Luso-Brazilian Review: “Os lugares do morto: O que faz Eça na literatura portuguesa contemporânea?” by Pedro Marques
Monatshefte: “Recent German Ecocriticism in Interdisciplinary Context” by Helga G. Braunbeck
Native Plants Journal: “Successfully Storing Milkweed Taproots for Habitat Restoration” by Melissa L. Topping, R. Kasten Dumroese, and Jeremiah R. Pinto
To celebrate the holiday season, we browsed past issues of Arctic Anthropology to find articles featuring our favorite furry friends of the North: the reindeer! Reindeer have played an important role in Arctic cultures for centuries, from European Russia to Alaska, providing people with transportation, food, and livelihood. Below are a few selected articles, freely available until the end of January.
“Reindeer Returning from Combat: War Stories among the Nenets of European Russia” by Stephan Dudeck (2018)
Dudeck studies the oral histories of the Nenets, an indigenous group of the northwestern Russian Arctic. The Nenets traditionally herded reindeer as part of their nomadic lifestyle, and from 1942 to 1944, Nenets herders used reindeer and sleds to transport supplies and wounded soldiers to and from the front in the Soviet war with Finland. In this article, Dudeck interviews Nenets elders about their personal experiences during the war.
“Towards a Multiangled Study of Reindeer Agency, Overlapping Environments, and Human-Animal Relationships” by Jukka Nyyssönen and Anna-Kaisa Salmi (2013)
Nyyssönen and Salmi discuss relationships between reindeer and humans, specifically with the Sámi, an indigenous people of northern Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Russia. Through an examination of archaeological sites in Finnish Lapland, the authors describe Sámi religious rituals where reindeer were sacrificed, arguing that the reindeer were able to demonstrate their agency by feeling fear and resisting being killed.
Mager studies the reindeer industry in Barrow, Alaska, which began to decline in the 1930s and 40s in part due to reindeer running away to join wild caribou herds. According to the oral histories collected in this study, to this day, locals can identify reindeer-like animals in caribou herds.
Land Economics journal founder Richard T. Ely and the battle for academic freedom
The founder of the field of land economics, and of the journal of the same name, played a pivotal role in the history of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He also scored a victory for academics everywhere when he defended his teaching and scholarship against charges that it promoted a subversive political agenda. Richard T. Ely taught economics at the University of Wisconsin from 1892 to 1925. His Progressivist ideas went against the current of the laissez-faire economic theory of the time, and his support for social reforms and organized labor earned him the scrutiny of the Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction, Oliver E. Wells. Wells charged that Ely was promoting anarchism and socialism to his students, and that he encouraged labor union strikes and boycotts—charges that Ely denied. In fact, he had written articles and books that were critical of socialism. Under media scrutiny, the UW Board of Regents launched an investigation, and Ely was tried in a public hearing in August of 1894. The economics community, as well as other academics, spoke out emphatically in Ely’s defense, and he was acquitted by a unanimous vote. In their report of the hearing, the regents issued a strong statement in support of academic freedom, part of which now graces a plaque on the university’s main administration building. The plaque reads:
Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.
This idea of “sifting and winnowing” has become a cornerstone of the University of Wisconsin’s institutional philosophy, and in this phrase, proponents of higher education can recognize the imperative to preserve the freedom to teach and research without censorship.
Ely went on to found the Institute for Research in Land Economics and Public Utilities in 1920, along with the Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics. In 1948, this journal was renamed Land Economics. For more on Ely, see this excellent history of “sifting and winnowing,” which appeared in September of this year to mark the 125th anniversary of the regents’ statement. Additionally, Ely’s legacy has been a recurring topic in the pages of Land Economics. He is profiled in this tribute from the year of his death, in the published proceedings of a 1948 symposium at UW–Madison on frontiers of housing research, and in the journal’s fiftieth anniversary issue.
Upcoming Journal of Human Resources article uncovers the hidden effects of pollutants on cognitive development and academic performance in adolescents
Increasing environmental consciousness means that more people are reaching for metal straws, but we may not be aware of a much larger issue: the hidden toxins in the air. New research set to appear in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Human Resources suggests that pollutants from local Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) sites may impact the productivity and educational development of students in nearby schools.
Over the past four years, Claudia Persico, an assistant professor at American University, evaluated over one million elementary, middle, and high school students in Florida using their Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) scores, their level of academic success, and general wellness. With over 30% of schools in Florida existing within one mile of a TRI site, exposure to air pollution was found to be associated with lower test scores and a greater chance that students will be suspended from school, have greater numbers of absences from school and perform lower on their FCAT exams. Persico expanded on these results to determine if different proximities to TRI sites affected grade repetition, behavior, and health over time. When students’ records were examined, it was revealed that those who had been exposed to the pollution for a greater cumulative time had lower attendance records and more health concerns.
Persico joined us to discuss the genesis of her interest in this topic and the larger implications of the study. To learn more, read the full Journal of Human Resources preprint article, “The Effects of Local Industrial Pollution on Students and Schools.”
1. How did you decide to pursue this topic? What spurred this study?
I used to study the neurobiology of autism at the Boston University School of Medicine, but I became interested in why low-income children perform so much worse in school and are more likely to have disabilities. Because the developing brain is so vulnerable to the environment, this got me interested in studying pollution.
It turns out that in 2014 alone, Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) sites in America (which represent only one type of industrial plant) released 3.95 billion pounds of (untreated) toxic chemicals into the air, land, and water, out of 25.45 billion total pounds of toxic chemicals created in production-related wastes. Although we do not currently have comprehensive evidence on which pollutants are most harmful, the evidence we do have is worrisome and suggests a source of inequality that has not yet been explored in depth. Namely, since African American, Hispanic, and low-income families are more likely to live and attend school in close proximity to sources of pollution like toxic waste and TRI sites, where housing is less expensive, it is possible that exposure to pollution—which more affluent families can avoid because they can afford more costly housing—is one mechanism through which poverty produces negative cognitive and health outcomes over time.
2. You note that about 30 percent of children in Florida live within one mile of a TRI site. Is Florida an extreme case? How are the effects of pollutants on cognitive development applicable to other areas of the United States and the world?
There are currently about 21,800 TRI sites operating across the United States and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 59 million people (about 19 percent of the population) live within one mile of a TRI site (EPA 2014). We find that nearly 22 percent of all public schools were within one mile of a TRI facility in 2016 serving more than 11 million public school students.
While other countries don’t call their factories TRI sites, it is likely that my findings could generalize to power plants, pharmaceutical industry, chemical, metal, and concrete manufacturers, as well as other factories that produce pollution containing carcinogens or known developmental toxicants worldwide. It is difficult to know how many people this would affect given that there isn’t a central database for international pollution, but my guess is that many people are affected.
3. What is one takeaway from your article that you’d like to communicate to non-scholars (or policymakers)?
These findings have strong implications for where we locate schools, playgrounds, public housing and places children or pregnant women congregate. For a long time, we have known that neighborhoods matter to children’s long-term outcomes. We are starting to realize that pollution is one major reason why this is the case, that pollution might drive more inequality than we are comfortable with, and that the true costs of pollution are only beginning to be understood.
4. To what extent do you feel that your research could inspire change in policy?
I think policymakers are starting to be interested in these findings, and I am optimistic about the future. While the land near TRI sites is cheaper to build a school on in the short run, the truth is that these sites might jeopardize the very mission of the schools located there. This also says nothing of the long-run costs on the children exposed to this type of pollution. In the back of the envelope calculation, we find that being exposed to TRI pollution in school leads to a US$4,361 decrease in lifetime income per person (in present value terms). With 436,088 children in Florida ever attending school within one mile of an operating TRI site during this sample period, this result implies US$1,875,178,400 in lost lifetime earnings.
5. Will you continue to pursue similar questions or will you take your research in another direction?
Yes, I am pursuing several new projects about the true costs of pollution. For example, I have another new working paper (along with David Simon and Jenni Heissel) in which we compare students who have to switch from elementary to middle school or from middle school to high school as they progress through the school system. We compare children who switch from a school that is upwind from a highway to a school that is downwind of a highway, and again find that highway pollution affects students’ test scores, behavior, and absences. Children who attend school near a major highway are again more likely to be low income or minority than children attending school elsewhere.
Note: Toxic Release Inventory facilities are shown in blue and sites on the Superfund National Priorities List are shown in red.
Source: National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services. https://toxmap.nlm.nih.gov/toxmap
Claudia Persico is an applied policy scholar whose research focuses on environmental policy, inequality, health and education policy using causal inference methods. Persico is also an IZA Research Affiliate, and a Research Affiliate with the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. Her research has recently been featured in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Journal of Labor Economics, and the Journal of Human Resources. Her current work examines the social and biological mechanisms underlying the relationships between poverty, the environment, and children’s cognitive development and health. In particular, much of her current research focuses on how early exposure to environmental pollution can cause inequality by affecting child health, development, behavior, and academic achievement. She has also studied how school funding affects long term outcomes, how school segregation impacts racial disproportionalities in special education, and how childhood exposure to pollution affects academic outcomes. Her research has been covered by the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, the Atlantic, and many other major media outlets. She was formerly an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
While northern Arctic coasts have long been important sites for the study of cultures on a regional scale, the latest issue of Arctic Anthropology, “The Archaeology of Northern Coasts,” focuses on what coastal peoples can teach us about topics of a global scale, particularly climate change.
The peoples of northern coasts have created some of the longest sustained cultural traditions on Earth. However, over time, they have faced threats to coastal and marine ecosystems as well as colonial pressures. The ways in which these cultures have developed and adapted over millennia holds lessons for our shared future, special issue editor Christopher B. Wolff explains:
The regions that many people view as the margins of human civilization are becoming more central to our understanding of the evolution and development of humanity and are providing information about directions forward in a world with increasing cultural interactivity and global climate unpredictability. Understanding the role that northern coasts and marine ecosystems play in this is crucial.
Articles in this issue open a window into the many different ways northern people have built thriving cultures along the Arctic and Subarctic coasts. Topics include a community-based archaeology project to preserve Yup’ik cultural heritage against the effects of climate change; the relationship between foxes and humans during the Late Holocene period on Kodiak Island, Alaska; and Medieval Norse peoples’ use of marine resources in Greenland. We invite you to browse the table of contents for a full look at the articles in this issue, and read the editor’s introduction.
This week, the UW Press has been exhibiting at the annual African Studies Association Conference in Boston. The conference is wrapping up, but if you’re attending, there’s still one last day to stop by booth 314 for discounts on books and journals. And if you’re not in Boston, here’s a look at our new and notable titles in African Studies.
Holding the World Together, edited by Nwando Achebe and Claire Robertson
Featuring contributions from some of the most accomplished scholars on the topic, Holding the World Together explores the rich and varied ways women have wielded power across the African continent, from the precolonial period to the present. This comprehensive volume, focusing on agency and avoiding stereotypical depictions, features essays on the representation of African women, their role in national liberation movements, their incorporation into the world economy, changing family and marriage systems, economic impacts on their lives and livelihoods, their unique challenges in the areas of health and disease, and their experiences with religious fundamentalism, violence, and slavery.
Health in a Fragile State, by John M. Janzen
Based on extensive field research in the Manianga region of the Lower Congo, Health in a Fragile State is an anthropological account of public health and health care in the 1980s and 1990s after the collapse of the Congolese state. This work brings into focus John M. Janzen’s earlier books on African health and healing, revealing the collaborative effort by local, national, and international agencies to create viable alternative institutions to those that represented the centralized state. With this volume, Janzen documents and analyzes the realignment of existing institutions and the creation of new ones that shape health and healing.
Throughout, Janzen explores the manner in which power and information, including science, are legitimized in the preservation and improvement of health. Institutional validity and knowledge empower citizens and health practitioners to gain the upper hand over the region’s principal diseases, including malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid, and HIV/AIDS.
African Economic History, edited by Mariana Candido, Toyin Falola, Toby Green, and Paul E. Lovejoy
African Economic History publishes scholarly essays in English and French on the economic history of African societies from precolonial times to the present. It features research in a variety of fields and time periods, including studies on labor, slavery, trade and commercial networks, economic transformations, colonialism, migration, development policies, social and economic inequalities, and poverty. The audience includes historians, economists, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, policymakers, and a range of other scholars interested in African economies—past and present.
Spirit Children, by Aaron R. Denham
Some babies and toddlers in parts of West Africa are considered spirit children—nonhumans sent from the forest to cause misfortune and destroy the family. These are usually deformed or ailing infants, or children whose births coincide with tragic events or who display unusual abilities. Aaron R. Denham offers a nuanced ethnographic study of this phenomenon in Northern Ghana that examines both the motivations of the families and the structural factors that lead to infanticide. He also turns the lens on the prevailing misunderstandings about this controversial practice. Denham offers vivid accounts of families’ life-and-death decisions that engage the complexity of the context, local meanings, and moral worlds of those confronting a spirit child.
Ghana Studies, edited by Carina Ray and Kofi Baku
Ghana Studies is the journal of the Ghana Studies Association, an international affiliate of the African Studies Association. Published annually, Ghana Studies strives to provide a forum for cutting edge original research about Ghana’s society, culture, environment, and history. All of the scholarly articles in Ghana Studies are peer-reviewed by two anonymous referees, coordinated by an editorial team based in both North America and Ghana. Since its first issue in 1998, Ghana Studies has published significant work by leading scholars based in Ghana, the United States, Canada, and Europe. In addition, Ghana Studies features occasional material, source reports, and book reviews. It also serves to provide official notice of fellowships and prizes awarded by the Ghana Studies Association.
The latest volume of Ghana Studies features a special forum in memory of James Kwesi Anquandah, who was a pioneer in the field of archaeology in Ghana. Forum editor Ebony Coletu chatted with the editors of Ghana Studies to describe Anquandah’s legacy and support for interdisciplinary research.
Ghana Studies Editors: For readers who may be new to Ghana Studies or to the field of archaeology, can you tell us why James Anquandah was such a towering figure in the field?
Ebony Coletu: Professor Anquandah was the first student of archaeology at the University of Ghana in the sixties—and he went on to mentor five generations of archaeology students as a faculty member, along with countless others who were not working in archaeology or even students at the university. Because his research practice was deeply interdisciplinary, he attracted scholars beyond the department, many like myself just dropping in to his office to ask a few questions, but leaving with an exciting mandate to develop new approaches. You hear this in Kwasi Ampene’s article too, how conversations with Anquandah animated a speculative approach to researching musical practices in the Akan Stone Age and Early Iron Age. So Anquandah did not prescribe a method, he inspired methods, really from his energetic curiosity and commitment to telling new stories about the distant past. Also in this forum, Mohammed Mustapha and Wazi Apoh describe his “eclectic method”—which is a multi-disciplinary research protocol Anquandah used to answer complex questions. For him, it was not enough to write from a single discipline, or apply a single method consistently. Instead he wanted to synthesize history, policy, sociology, and art, to help reformulate and deepen the significance of a question and tell a better story about research findings, particularly for publics beyond the academy.
GS Editors: What distinguishes this special forum commemorating the work and legacy of James Kwesi Anquandah (1938-2017)?
EC: Soon after he passed, I circulated a call for papers that focused on mentorship as a way to map his influence across fields, thus “reframing the reach of archaeology.” The responses affirmed the call by capturing Anquandah’s marathon commitment to mentoring (training five generations of archaeologists in Ghana) as well as the ongoing work of decolonizing disciplines. Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann addresses this directly in her essay, when she writes about autoarchaeology, a research practice that foregrounds direct descendants as researchers whose families have lived in or around the excavation site. She enlisted Danish-Ga descendants as researchers at Christiansborg Castle, unearthing artifacts and posing questions collaboratively. As a consequence of centering community-based knowledge production, the project inspires new pipelines for training in archaeology aimed at multilingual researchers who are gaining experience on site. She reframes the reach of archaeology by asking who can do this work and why? For Kwasi Ampene, Anquandah inspired a deep-time approach to Akan ethnomusicology, and in the process he challenges our dependence on sixteenth-century European traveler sketches typically used as evidence of musical practices. Questioning the explanatory power and the historical limits of these images, Ampene goes on to suggest a deep-time alternative: using archaeological research to speculate on the multipurpose use of agricultural instruments to make ancient music, inspired by those used for both purposes today.
GS Editors: You not only guest edited this special forum, you also contributed an essay to it in which you introduce the idea of “descendent epistemology.” Can you tell readers how your conversations with Anquandah helped you formulate this innovative methodology?
EC: I was fortunate to meet Anquandah in the early stages of my research on Chief Sam, an Akyem merchant who led a diasporic return movement that recruited support from thousands of African Americans to purchase a ship that set sail from Texas, arriving in the Gold Coast in 1915. I had narrow interests in that first conversation. I wanted to reconstruct a fuller version of Sam’s family tree and identify a plausible link to the Sams of Anomabo, who are part of my family. Chief Sam’s life was far from conventional, leaving traces and descendants in multiple countries, including multiple wives and stepchildren. I sought Anquandah’s help to make sense of a more complex family tree. But after reading his interview notes with descendants and talking with him over several years, he began to reflect my questions back to me, noting that my concern with kinship had widened to include the technical matter of diasporic return: what was the status of African Americans who pledged to live, work, and die in African communities? Were they also, in some sense, part of Sam’s family? Sam had proposed to adopt them en masse to facilitate the process of landownership and repair a spiritual wound from separation by slavery. While mass adoption was unsuccessful, those who remained quickly integrated into indigenous communities through other means. I found Sam’s proposal, and colonial attempts to block it, an important antecedent to contemporary debates about diasporic right of return, evidence of kinship, and different routes to Ghanaian citizenship.
GS Editors: Taken together, what does this collection of special forum essays tell us about the next generation of archaeological research coming out of Ghana?
EC: The last essay says much on this point. Mustapha and Apoh tell a story about Anquandah’s decolonial legacy, which has shaped their own research itineraries instead of resting on a citational model that preserves what previous generations of Africanist archaeologists prioritized. For example, Apoh’s research builds new sources for the understudied topic of German missionionization and colonization in historical archaeology. While Mustapha pushes back against an exogenous theory of social complexity in the Mamprugu Traditional Area in Northern Ghana by investigating indigenous innovations that led to large scale ancient ironworking. Engmann’s work also sharpens this point by challenging value assessments in the literature, which can determine which places are considered critical to research while marginalizing others. Her work at Christiansborg Castle is groundbreaking for the sheer number of artifacts excavated in a short period of time on a site previously considered marginal. This despite the fact that it served as the seat of several administrations, from Danish governors to Flight Lieutenant John Jerry Rawlings. Though this forum began in a memorial spirit, it was exciting to edit because it features forthcoming interdisciplinary work in Ghana Studies encouraged by Professor Anquandah’s pathbreaking example.
Ghana Studies Volume 22 is available on Project MUSE. Browse the table of contents, which includes the special forum along with other articles and reviews. And if you’re attending the African Studies Association Conference this week, stop by the University of Wisconsin Press booth (#314), where you’ll find Ghana Studies alongside many of our other titles in African Studies.
To mark Banned Books Week, we are sharing a collection of articles and interviews from Contemporary Literature journal featuring writers whose work has been censored, or who have faced government persecution in response to their writing.
Chinese writer Ha Jin came to the United States to complete doctoral studies in American literature and opted to emigrate permanently following the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. From studying literature, he turned to writing poetry and then fiction, and to date he has published eight novels, seven books of poetry, and four short story collections.
In a New York Times op-ed, published a few days before the twentieth anniversary of Tiananmen Square, he explains his decision to write in English: “if I wrote in Chinese, my audience would be in China and I would therefore have to publish there and be at the mercy of its censorship. To preserve the integrity of my work, I had no choice but to write in English.” He continues, “To some Chinese, my choice of English is a kind of betrayal. But loyalty is a two-way street. I feel I have been betrayed by China, which has suppressed its people and made artistic freedom unavailable. I have tried to write honestly about China and preserve its real history. As a result, most of my work cannot be published in China.”
In this Contemporary Literature interview, conducted by Jerry A. Varsava, Ha Jin discusses growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when books were burned and schools were shuttered, as well as his decision to join the “great [English literary] tradition where nonnative writers [have become] essential writers.”
Read the interview, freely available for the rest of September: “An Interview with Ha Jin”
Niyi Osundare is a Nigerian poet known as “The People’s Poet” for his commitment to making poetry accessible to all and reflective of common life. He uses elements of the Yoruba oral tradition, which he transmits through his English-language writing.
In this 2000 interview with Cynthia Hogue and Nancy Easterlin for Contemporary Literature, Osundare describes the struggle of the artist writing under a dictatorship, summing up the situation with this parable: “once an English writer came to an African colleague and complained about the apparent irrelevance of Western writers. The African then told the Western artist, ‘Well, when we talk in Africa, the government listens, but that is not the end of the story. The government listens in a different way. They put us in jail.’”
But democracy also hampers the artist in certain ways, Osundare finds, having emigrated to the US in 1997. Comparing US literature and African literature, he notes, “Democracy leads to the flowering of free opinions, of public consciousness, and, without this, creativity cannot really take place. But democracy also leads to a kind of complacency which may undermine that dissonance and eliminate that kick in the stomach that is necessary for every creative activity. . . . If our own literature in Africa is too political, then I think the literature of the U.S. is too apolitical.”
Osundare believes in a “golden mean” that writers should strive for. And while Osundare’s work often has political themes, Isidore Diala argues in this Contemporary Literature article that the poet’s work contains a “vibrant and sustained global humanistic vision” that has been overlooked by critics who focus too narrowly on the poems’ Nigeria-specific social and political commentary.
Read the article, freely available for the rest of September: “Burden of the Visionary Artist: Niyi Osundare’s Poetry,” by Isidore Diala
And read the interview on JSTOR: “An Interview with Niyi Osundare”
In 1973, Filipina writer Ninotchka Rosca was imprisoned under the Marcos dictatorship for her antigovernmental journalism. Later, from exile in the U.S., she wrote a short story collection, The Monsoon Collection, and a novel, State of War, about life during the Marcos regime. In the outlines of Rosca’s biography, argues Jini Kim Watson in her article “Stories of the State: Literary Form and Authoritarianism in Ninotchka Rosca’s State of War,” we find that the “repressive, unchecked (usually third-world) dictatorial state is conceived of in inherent opposition to the freedom and free speech of committed writers.” This vision of the relationship between the writer and the authoritarian state is seen, for example, in the literary and humanitarian organization PEN International, which fights for freedom of expression and strives to protect writers from state persecution.
While writers do face very real persecution, Watson argues that it is dangerous to oversimplify the dynamic between writers and the authoritarian state, since this could imply that third-world states are simply “tyrannical and backwards”—a judgment that privileges Western norms of “good” government and ignores the agency of individual citizens. “How might we think about postcolonial state formation and literary form together?” Watson asks. “Can we determine a relationship between them that goes beyond that of simple opposition?” Watson puts these questions to Rosca’s State of War, examining the ways the novel confounds a simplistic view of state tyranny through formal experimentation and a nuanced narrative.
Read the article, freely available for the rest of September: “Stories of the State: Literary Form and Authoritarianism in Ninotchka Rosca’s State of War,” by Jini Kim Watson