This special issue will contemplate empire as a global process involving sexualized subjects and objects. Contributions from across several disciplines will reconsider the history of sex and (or in) empire, critically engaging scholars’ recounting of those pasts in recent decades. From steam ships to steam rooms and sweat lodges to sweat shops, processes of pleasures and desire shaped the regulation and classification of bodies. On beaches, in boardrooms, from temples to taverns, sexual practices have always shaped imperial power relations. And in the many places and relationships where colonialism still shapes economics (slavery, debt peonage, underemployment, and their legacies), sex and sexuality remain a driving—if sometimes compounding or hidden—force in power relations.
A feminist point of departure for investigation of these processes as both economic and cultural, Anne McClintock’s 1995 Imperial Leather argued that there are three key areas to which scholars of empire should attend: “intimate relations between imperial power and resistance; money and sexuality; race and gender” (5). Nearly two decades later, Nayan Shah’s work in Stranger Intimacy on mass migration, male intimacy, and state desires for gendered order tracks “struggles over companionship, domesticity, and public life” as these pertained to contested notions of legitimacy in tenancy, property-holding, work, citizenship, and the tenure of capital (3). Shah demonstrates how economic empires in North America were built and brokered through “strange” ethnic and gendered intimacies; how these very intimacies were treated as threats to race and sex hierarchies deemed essential to national viability; how money and sexuality determined individual and collective fates; and how intimate practices blurred the distinctions between imperial subjects and imperial subjection.
Given the direction historical scholarship has taken at the crossroads of sexuality and empire—and given the broad historiographical space between Anne McClintock and Nayan Shah—what kind of questions is it now possible to ask? How do we speak across disciplinary, regional, temporal, national, methodological boundaries? Can we determine a “state of the field” in histories of empire and sexuality—and how might such a determination help us reassess local, regional, national, and transnational phenomena?
We use the gerund form—“Sexing Empire”—to indicate fluidity and continuity in the relationships between sex and imperialism, across traditional periodizations and geographies. Moreover, we wish to invite essays that speak to the sexual violence of empire--a violence implicated in a second, unspoken gerundic phrase: “fucking empire.” This phrase serves as a double-edged point of departure, suggesting the ways in which imperial fuckings could simultaneously facilitate, incarnate, and/or destabilize uneven power relations, as—for example—imperialist states sought to fuck and be fucked by their colonized subjects. One need only look at how ancient armies like those of Alexander the Great, who through conscription or voluntary service displaced masses of men, sometimes resulting in rape and intermarriage as a tactic of conquest and/or empire. Such intermarriage and sexual violence were official policy, making notions of diaspora complex and necessary to the expansion of empires, ancient and contemporary. Given the experimental format that RHR offers, we wish to include traditional academic essays, visual images, and activist perspectives on, about, and against “Fucking Empire.”
This special issue will combine transhistorical, transregional, and local-level case studies to provide macro-level perspective on the work of sexuality in imperial processes. In the various iterations of empires and colonial formations, how can we account for the technologies of desire? How does settler colonialism, as a transhistorical phenomenon, create categories of rapability, expendability, and social death as forms of sexualized violence? How have historical actors mobilized on behalf of the state or against the state based on politics of sexuality and/or conquest? Can we revisit the historicization of the contact zone as a site from which to study sexuality and sex? How might we track the physical, embodied, or affective symptoms of empire across time and space? We seek innovative case studies that answer these questions from a variety of disciplinary, periodic, regional, national, and transnational perspectives. Themes we wish to consider include (but are not limited to) the following:
• Colonial imaginaries, representations, voyeurism/surveillance, and fantasies of sex and race
Please send any images as low-resolution digital files embedded in a Word document along with the text. If chosen for publication, you will need to send high-resolution image files (jpg or tif files at a minimum of 300 dpi), and secure written permission to reprint all images, meeting all minimum requirements set by Duke University Press for images.
Those articles selected for publication after the peer review process will be included in issue 123 of Radical History Review, scheduled to appear in Fall/Winter, 2015.
For preliminary e-mail inquiries, please include “Issue 123” in the subject line.