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Volume 4, Issue 1: Contents


Notes on the 'Cellular Regime of Nationality'

  When Marx wrote that what mattered most about the Paris Commune of 1871 was not any ideals it sought to realize but rather its own "working existence," he underlined the extent to which the insurgents shared no blueprint of the society to come. The Commune, in this sense, was a working laboratory of political inventions, improvised on the spot or hobbled together out of past scenarios and phrases, reconfigured as need be, and fed by desires awakened in the popular reunions at the end of the Empire. An insurrection in the capital fought under the flag of the Universal Republic, the Commune as event and as political culture has always proved resistant to any seamless integration into the national narrative. As one of its former members recalled years later it was, above all else, "an audacious act of internationalism."



"Most Holy Virgin Assist Me": Subaltern Transnationalism and Positively Possible Worlds

  In 1802, a young free mulatta named Louisa Calderon confessed to the authorities of British Trinidad that she had assisted Carlos Gonzales, also a free mulatto, in the theft of two thousand dollars from Pedro Ruiz, her lover and employer. The confession was not offered voluntarily. The first British governor of a formerly Spanish Trinidad, Thomas Picton, had authorized Calderon's inquisitors to torture her, and she had admitted her guilt while suffering the pains of the piquet. The torture did not stop with Calderon's confession; wishing to learn where the stolen money had been deposited, Trinidadian authorities tortured Calderon yet again. In 1804, Picton was indicted for having authorized this possibly illegal mode of inquisition. As a part of the proceedings, King's Bench in Britain issued a writ of mandamus to Port of Spain, Trinidad, ordering a court of sessions to gather information for the case.



"An Attitude That Could Act Upon Modernity": Versions of Jean Toomer

  In an interview conducted in the 1970s, the black American painter Aaron Douglas was asked about the writer Jean Toomer, whose modernist classic Cane (1923) many consider among the finest works produced during the Harlem Renaissance. The two had met in the 1920s. "The only time Jean said anything about race," Douglas recalled, "was that he 'didn't make much of it.'" As historians and literary critics have long noted, Toomer, who was raised in a middle-class mulatto neighborhood in Washington, D. C. and shaped in part by its Victorian mores, presented in Cane a subtle and at times mercurial set of stories and poems about Negro life in the United States—both in the South and the urban North. Yet he was insistent that he himself not be characterized as a Negro. When excerpts from Cane were published in Alain Locke's 1925 anthology The New Negro, Toomer expressed frustration insofar as the publication helped to entrench him in the prevailing racial designations of his day. Toomer claimed membership in what he called an emergent "American race" that was difficult to detect, let alone advance, amid the coagulations of white supremacy and modern permutations of Negro difference during the early twentieth century.



The Moral Economy of Settler Colonialism: Israel and the "Evacuation Trauma"

  "At the beginning of October 2012 the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post published an article entitled "Peace-Traumatic Stress Disorder." In it the author, Michael Freund, diagnosed a widespread pathology among Israeli politicians: a psychological disorder whose roots, according to Freund, could be traced back to the period of the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo peace agreements (1993–1999), and the successive unilateral measures adopted by different Israeli governments as a result of what their leading figures usually refer to as the absence of a Palestinian partner for peace. Freund describes the syndrome as an "anxiety condition": the will of the Israeli leadership to re- linquish the "Land of Israel" through unilateral steps—the evacuation of some of the colonies established after the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The direct target of his article is former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak who, in one of his speeches at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, advocated for more Israeli unilateral action in order to put "an end to the conflict, and an end to mutual claims."



Intervention: Life after Sovereignty

  Let's start with the most illustrious point of reference. "Political philosophy," declares Foucault to his Italian interviewer, "has never ceased to be obsessed with the person of the sovereign. What we need, however, is a political theory that isn't erected around the problem of sovereignty, nor therefore around the problem of right and violence, law and prohibition. We need to cut off the king's head. In political theory this has yet to be done." That was in 1977. Nearly six decades earlier, as World War I was drawing to a close, the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain (whose views are rarely taken as a precursor to Foucault's) similarly announced that if the political was to be apprehended in what he called a "consistent manner," the concept of sovereignty—which, he argued, "is but one with the concept of Absolutism"—must definitively be abandoned.




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History of the Present is a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal, with issues appearing in the fall and spring.
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