Special Issues

American Quarterly publishes one special issue per year each September.  Special issues are edited by the guest editors in collaboration with the AQ editors and the AQ Managing Board. They are comprised of a combination of essays that are solicited by the editors and essays that are submitted to a call for papers. Proposals are reviewed by the AQ Board, and the submission process is subject to a peer-review process. For more information on special issues and a look back at past special issues, please visit the Special Issues page.

Call for Papers 

2022 Special Issue: From Anarchy to Chaos: Generation(s) of Empire

Edited by Christopher Lee (University of British Columbia) and Melani McAlister (George Washington University)  

In the twenty-first century, American studies scholars have generated a rich body of work that has debated and analyzed the militarized expansion of the US state, as well as the problems of Indigenous dispossession, anti-Blackness, racial capitalism, militarized borders, attacks on migrant rights, climate change, and neoliberal sexual politics. The multiple crises of the current conjuncture—from Black Lives Matter and the eruption of protests in response to the killing of George Floyd to the global politics of COVID-19, and the outpouring of resistance from the Nigerian Delta to Standing Rock—highlight the ongoing significance of empire, settler colonialism, racial capitalism, globalization, and the Anthropocene to American studies. In this time of uncertainty and anger, but also reassessment and opportunity, this special issue reconsiders the work of empire, asking both how the category has been generative for American studies and what its limits might be as a framework adequate to the contemporary moment.

 If the Trump era has taught us nothing else, it is that we need to consider the politics of disorder as integral to (but perhaps also ultimately a sign of the transformation of) a US-dominated global order. Accordingly, this special issue asks what tools we have—and need—to understand the ways that state power, transnational forces, global flows, and energized social movements relate to each other. This is a question for our moment, but we also invite consideration of what our present moment can teach us about the past.      

These questions are not intended to argue that US empire has reached an unprecedented crisis; indeed, it recognizes that the very discourse of “crisis” has long enabled the expansion and consolidation of forms of empire. Almost twenty years ago, in Anarchy of Empire, Amy Kaplan characterized US imperialism as “a network of power relations that changes over space and time and is riddled with instability, ambiguity, and disorder, rather than [a] monolithic system of domination.” Writing at the height of the War on Terror, Kaplan mobilized the multiple meanings of anarchy to describe the violence unleashed by US militarism and imperialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as the material and discursive impact of empire on constructs of domesticity and national culture. The disastrous contradictions of the Trump period, marked by an embrace of isolationism and white nationalism, on the one hand, and a continuing investment in global capitalism and militarism, on the other, may well represent a shift from anarchy to chaos, as ongoing realignments of global politics unsettle the power of Pax Americana. 

 The guiding questions for this special issue are therefore methodological as well as political. What approaches, for example, can allow us to best analyze the disastrous US response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Is empire adequate as a framing for a world under threat of warming temperatures and rising seas? What forms of analysis can expose structures of US empire as they emerge, consolidate, and unravel in relationship to other global realities? Mindful of the ongoing need to rethink exceptionalist or US-centric approaches, this issue invites scholars to consider how US empire compares and interacts with other imperial formations or, remembering Kaplan’s forceful critique of the binary opposition between foreign and domestic, to explore modalities of power and domination that have been deployed across the spatial divisions of borders and nation-states. In light of the urgency of decolonizing American studies, this issue aims to explore the structural logic as well as unruliness of empire in its various spatial and temporal forms; examine dominant and alternative genealogies of complicity and resistance that imagine different futures; and highlight the role of critical scholarship, especially across generations of American studies practitioners, in diagnosing and responding to these challenges. 

Submissions may consider, among other topics:

●  Pandemic politics

●  Black Lives Matter and global struggles against anti-Blackness

●  Transnational or border-crossing social movements

●  Crises of asylum and refuge

●  The politics of religion as imperial and anti-imperial force

●  The Anthropocene, climate change, and ecological catastrophe

●  Biopower and the politics of global health 

●  Technologies of the imperial imagination

●  The sites and practices of the US military and militarism

●  The Asia Pacific as a site of competing empires

●  Specters of the Cold War

●  The global impact of the War on Terror

●  Racial capitalism in a time of chaos

●  The internet as/after empire

●  Genealogies of anticolonial thought in American studies

●  Trade wars and other configurations of global capital

●  Financialization and debt as technologies of empire

Essays of up to ten thousand words are due August 1, 2021. Authors must address the guest editors and clearly indicate in a cover letter that the submission is intended for the 2022 special issue. Information about American Quarterly and submission guidelines can be found at