Tribute to Carol A. Breckenridge
Carol Breckenridge, the founding editor of Public Culture, passed away in the early hours of October 4, 2009, in New York. Trained as a social historian, by choice a cultural critic, she launched Public Culture with Arjun Appadurai in 1988 as a desktop publishing venture. In twelve years as editor, she grew Public Culture into a field-defining academic journal — one that became the most demanding as well as hospitable venue for voices from the global South, for younger voices, and for nonacademic voices. More than anything else, she reinvented “public culture” as a field of intervention and innovation, of emergence and emergency, of crisis and consolidation, of the local and the global, of the fugitive and the eternal — and more specifically, as a field in which to reengage the colonial, the postcolony, the cosmopolitan, and the global modern. With her keen eye for design and the visual, Public Culture acquired a signature look unmatched in academic publishing. There is much more to her legacy, which the editors and editorial community of Public Culture have sought to honor and carry forward since her retirement from active editorship in 2000. The void left behind in this community by her passing can be filled only by persisting in a mode so very characteristic of Carol Breckenridge: why are we here if not to question and challenge that which is taken for granted in the public culture of our time?