This issue features five essays, a forum on the keyword authenticity, and three reviews. In the forum, convener Jonna Eagle and scholars from diverse disciplinary, cultural, and personal backgrounds explore the practice and stakes of measurement and valuation, affirmation and exclusion involved in characterizing something as (in)authentic. The review section includes book reviews by Jillian Hernandez, who discusses works that deal with aesthetics in relation to racial being, subjection, and autonomy; and Vineeta Singh, who examines recent texts in critical university studies that question our understanding of what, how, and why we study in the academy. Finally, in a digital project review, Lindsay Garcia introduces us to Equality Archive, a digital encyclopedia of feminist knowledge that was built deploying feminist principles through the platform’s infrastructure, the collective arrangement of labor, the curation of topics, and the figuring of praxis as central to knowledge.
“Twins Twisted into One”: Recovering a Sovereign Erotic in Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian
“‘Twins Twisted into One’: Recovering a Sovereign Erotic in Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian” reads the autobiography of Don Talayesva (1890-1976) to center Talayesva’s self-conception as “twins twisted into one.” Throughout Sun Chief,Talayesva identifies as “twins twisted into one,” male and female siblings who were united in their mother’s womb prior to being born. Whereas previous scholarship has interpreted Talayesva’s text through Euro-American formulations of gender and sexuality, I engage recent scholarship in queer Indigenous feminist studies and Hopi epistemology to read Talayesva’s narration of their twisted/twin being as an expression of a sovereign erotic: a resource of spiritual power and felt knowledge rooted in their body as well as in Hopi land and community.
Talayesva writes about their role as a Katcina or Katsina, a sacred clown who embodies Hopi deities, spirits, or ancestors in ceremonies. The article cites Hopi educator, court judge, artist, and research anthropologist Emory Sekaquaptewa who writes in Hopi Katsina Songs (2015) that the katsinas’ reference to a “double-headed ear of corn (mookwa)” may refer to “twins and their special powers, making this a suggestion from the katsinas that special powers of this sort are needed to revitalize the people.” Readers who would like to see what a double-headed ear of corn looks like may find photos here.
Hopi cosmology includes beings whose “gender” transcends the Euro-American sex/gender binary. An image by an unnamed Hopi artist, included in an anthropological collection titled “Hopi Katcinas Drawn by Native Artists” (1904), represents He’he’e, a Hopi Katcina that incorporates features of both male/masculine/men and female/feminine/women. He’he’e wears a mask with a beard on it. He’he’e’s hairdo features the Hopi maiden’s butterfly whorl on one side and a man’s tie on the other. He’he’e wears a women’s woolen dress and carries a quiver of arrows, typically men’s hunting/war implements, on their back. In one hand He’he’e holds a bow, and in the other hand they hold a rattle made of a gourd, which may be associated with produce--Hopi women’s domain.
According to the Smithsonian’s description of a drawing created by a Hopi artist in 1899, whose identity is uncertain but may be Kutca-Honauu, Homovi, White Bear, or Winuta, He’he’e is also known as He-Wuhti (Warrior Woman).
 Sekaquptewa, Emory, Kenneth C. Hill, and Dorothy K. Washburn. Hopi Katsina Songs. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015. 250.
Personalism and the Politics of Love: Revisiting the Radicalism of Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King Jr
My article examines a mid-twentieth-century U.S. political orientation taken up by several intellectuals and activists who, skeptical of or failed by conventional politics, aimed to reconceive personal experience as not a private domain but the essential terrain for producing social transformation. This project, which I identify as personalism, was characterized by commitment to the shared, communal implications of traditionally politically sidelined aspects of everyday life, including personal values, interpersonal relationships, and individual practices. With origins in specific late-19th and early-20th century philosophical schools and bearing strong transatlantic ties, especially to interwar France, this stance took on distinct valences in the mid-twentieth-century U.S. through relay with local activist networks and traditions of protest and dissent.
In the article, I focus on the thought and activism of Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King Jr. as exemplary of how personalism’s conceptual framework imbued the personal domain with radical force. Both figures drew from personal experience and from the traditionally private sphere of religious faith to reframe conceptions of both political subjectivity and what constituted political action and participation. They rooted their universalist claims for social inclusion in forms of intersubjectivity encountered in daily life, locating transformative political power in the interrelation of moral and material concerns characterizing everyday scenes. Though personalism was not only, or even primarily, spiritual in nature, the religious personalism developed by Day and King usefully highlights how this orientation envisioned personal beliefs, choices, and behaviors as sites of public concern with the potential to disrupt prevailing power structures.
The two examples of their activism analyzed in detail in this article – Day’s protest of cold war Civil Defense policy, which culminated in a campaign against the compulsory air raid drill Operation Alert, and King’s work to consolidate and sustain the Montgomery Bus Boycott – which both took place in the mid-1950s, each mobilized the notion of Christian love as a political tool. Situating these cases of civil disobedience in relation to both their public and private writing and speeches, I highlight how Day and King framed sacrificial love as a form of devotional practice and spiritual labor able to fuse political and divine communities and ultimately produce systemic change. In this sense, their personalism negotiated the boundaries not only between public and private, individual and collective, but also between realism and idealism – during a historical moment in which such notions were highly charged. It is my hope that revisiting Day’s and King’s work from the perspective of their personalist commitments will help to recontextualize not only what we think we know about these familiar figures but also what we think it means for the personal to be political.
This material constitutes a rich teaching archive because it offers new angles for exploring the history of dissent and protest in the U.S. twentieth century and its relationship to international contexts, while also raising questions about what social movements can and should look like and how they might emerge. There are extensive online archives that publicly share much of Day’s and King’s work. Asking students to explore and analyze these historical documents – for instance, with respect to rhetoric, recurring tropes and ideas (such as the notion of love highlighted in this article), and forms of argumentation – represents an opportunity to encourage meaningful engagement with primary documents. This material could be usefully supplemented in a classroom setting with historical media coverage of Day and King and their work featured in contemporaneous newspapers, magazines, and political cartoons or in historical comics (such as the one discussed in my article), comments from contemporaries, audio recordings, photographs, and documentary footage. Contextualizing such documents in relation to their historical backdrop, including the cold war and civil rights themes foregrounded in this article, and in terms of race, class, and gender identities, will enable students to identify how such matters intersected with their messaging and modes of appeal.
Moreover, the personalist methods and idiom deployed in Day’s and King’s activism can be put in productive conversation with contemporary movements for racial and economic justice and gender equality and represent a useful point of comparison – especially because they problematize current, hardened conceptions of what it means to be on the right or the left. In this sense, Day’s and King’s personalism highlights how such notions are contested, always under negotiation, and change over time. To open space for dialogue, students might be asked to consider questions such as:
- Is it better to take an approach to social change that uncompromisingly maintains alignment between aims and means or one that disregards the so-called purity of methods and instead focuses on making swift progress? What do the legacies of Day’s and King’s activism teach us about these two positions, which are commonly opposed?
- Both Day’s and King’s approaches to social change emphasized cohesion and universalism, inviting coalition-building across denominational, racial, and class lines. To what extent should cohesion, universalism, and coalition be part of a vision for political change? What are the pros and cons of this stance?
- What types of work, training, and sacrifice do we or should we associate with political participation?
- Do any contemporary figures or groups make use of Day’s or King’s notions of love? What are the strengths and weaknesses of making love a political ideal?
- Does knowing about this history reinforce or alter our contemporary views of Day, who is being considered for potential canonization as a Catholic saint, or of King, who is broadly considered a national hero? If the latter, how should we alter current narratives about these figures?