This issue concludes my five-year term as editor of Public Culture. During these years we have introduced a number of innovations, beginning with the journal’s redesign; the addition of an editorial section, Doxa at Large, and of the Arts in Circulation section; and an increased commitment to publishing high-quality images both on the cover of and inside the journal, as well as the exploration of new strategies of translation and the development of a state-of-the-art Web site at www.publicculture.org. Readers and authors have responded enthusiastically to these changes. Today Public Culture is one of the most widely read, most respected, and most cited journals in the fields of anthropology, communications, and cultural studies. Our site gets tens of thousands of visitors, and we receive superior-quality submissions in greater numbers and from a wider range of places than ever before.
I wish to recognize the collaborations that have made these improvements possible. First, I want to acknowledge the work of Managing Editor Plaegian Alexander, who came to Public Culture from Columbia University Press. Her work has consistently pushed the journal to higher editorial standards and helped gear it to a broader readership. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with her. Alexander has collaborated with an unusually talented and dedicated group of doctoral candidates, who have done work in practically every aspect of production. Among these, Public Culture owes special gratitude to the hard work and distinctive competence of Ron Jennings, Siva Arumugam, and Stephen Twilley. Craig Zheng, our Webmaster, has done truly outstanding work in developing www.public culture.org; on that project he has worked in creative collaboration with Alexander, Jennings, Arumugam, and Twilley. Finally, Public Culture’s editorial office has been a training ground for master’s students at the New School and for bachelor’s students at Columbia who have demonstrated real dedication to publishing, most recently Glover Wright, Fiori Berhane, and Shakeer Rahman, whom I wish to thank. In its New School years the journal received support and dedication from Amy Palmer, Eileen Wu, Barbara Adams, and Kai Olsen-Sawyer.
Collaboration with Duke University Press has been close, effective, and respectful, and the press has supported our team’s efforts in very meaningful ways. I wish to thank Rob Dilworth, in particular, for his advice and assistance.
The prizewinning design for Public Culture was developed with Sue Hall, and we have enjoyed and learned much from working with her on the design and layout of every cover and issue.
During the first two years of my editorship, Public Culture received support from the New School; during the past three years, support has come from Columbia. The journal could not have survived without these institutions’ generous assistance.
I have also been fortunate to work with a deeply dedicated, warm, and brilliant Editorial Committee, starting with Executive Editor Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, who has edited the Doxa section and who will lead the journal during the coming year of editorial transition, and with Senior Editor Elizabeth A. Povinelli. Dilip, Beth, and I have worked closely on every aspect of the journal. The other members of the Editorial Committee, Faisal Devji, Mamadou Diouf, Marilyn Ivy, Janet Roitman, Katie Trumpener, and Candace Vogler, have been the most impressive interlocutors that I, and Public Culture’s authors, could have hoped for. In addition to our sometimes raucous meetings and intense editorial discussions, the long conversations and close collaborative relationships I have enjoyed with my colleagues has been one of the great privileges of this job.
Finally, a thanks to our authors and readers. It has been an honor to be at the helm of this collective project these five years.
This issue of Public Culture opens with Mariana Valverde’s personal reflection on the absence of Spanish civil war refugees from the cultured public’s collective memory of the place where Walter Benjamin died. In the second Doxa essay, occupied with an all-too-haunting contemporary myth, Jeremy Prestholdt argues that the rhetorical making of al Qaeda operative Fazul Abdullah Muhammad into a “master terrorist” was largely the product of a psychology of fear and a popular imagination saturated with the layered syntax of entertainment industry imagery. In her Arts in Circulation contribution, film scholar Jie Li explores the politics of remembering the Chinese Cultural Revolution through a study of two banned documentaries by Hu Jie that have circulated widely on the Internet. Jie Li shows us how these films manifest an intriguing tension between the traumatic past and the oblivious present.
A set of stimulating essays on the reconfiguration of public spheres across political lines begins with Rihan Yeh’s account of how an immigrants’ rights demonstration at la Línea that for a day shut down the International Port of Entry between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, California, brought into relief a number of deeply rooted notions about the social world of the border. Turning the ethnographic focus to contemporary Italy, Andrea Muehlebach looks at the phenomenal rise of the role of leftist citizens’ voluntarism in the privatizing social service economy and finds in an early Carl Schmitt essay a key to understanding neoliberalism as a form that can contain oppositional elements and fold them into a single moral order. Examining the tensions that sustain the field of democratic politics in Turkey, Kabir Tambar looks at a series of mass demonstrations rallied in the name of secularism and against the elected Islamist regime and through them explores the tentative formation of a secular populism.
The notion of a complexio oppositorum may also provide insight into the essays of the issue’s final section, Consumer Democracies, whose authors grapple with various contemporary instances of reconcilable differences. Judith Farquhar, focusing on the uses, significance, and powers of an inexpensive identity card that gives Beijing residents access to the city’s well-known and historic parks, discovers a compliant civilizational nationalism with deep roots in China’s revolutionary twentieth century. Claudia K. Grinnell offers a guide for the uninitiated to the perceived second generation of Web development and design, the more social and participatory utopia known as Web 2.0. Finally, Christine Harold analyzes the Target corporation as an example of the foregrounding of design in contemporary consumer culture, arguing that, in an age of aesthetic capitalism, a new dimension of the manufactured object is emerging, one best understood as combining aura and affect.