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Graham Holderness

Shakespeare’s interest in ancient Rome spans the whole of his dramatic career, from Titus Andronicus to Cymbeline, while Roman history and Latin culture permeate the whole of his work, well beyond the explicitly ‘Roman’ plays and poems. Critical interest has to some extent shifted from the historicist Roman plays based on Plutarch, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, and the pseudo-historical Coriolanus, to the outlying Roman plays that evidence greater generic diversity and stylistic innovation, the early Senecan tragedy Titus Andronicus and the late ‘British’ romance Cymbeline. In these latter plays, the complex interactions between past and present, that are the main subject of the formal histories, are presented with even more aesthetic flexibility and creative improvisation than the ‘Roman plays’ proper.

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Constance L. Mui and T Storm Heter

Readers will recall that we devoted a special issue to anti-Black racism in 2021, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement which gained momentum following the 2020 murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by police officers in Louisville and Minneapolis. The present issue continues to address the problem of racism from a Sartrean perspective, with an interview of the pioneering Black Existentialist thinker Lewis R. Gordon, followed by articles that take up related themes in freedom and oppression.

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Illness, Metaphor, and Bells

Campanology under COVID-19

Remi Chiu

Throughout 2020 and 2021, bells have rung in a variety of COVID-related rituals in the West, ranging from large-scale religious and civic rites, to ad hoc neighborhood and hospital initiatives, to anti-racist memorials that simultaneously spoke to the health crisis at hand. Taking stock of how these COVID bell-ringing rituals were formalized, their structures and actions, and the historical precedents from which they drew their meanings, this article investigates what the sounds of bells and the rituals of bell-ringing communicated about COVID, how they shaped our personal and collective experiences of the crisis, and what functions they were expected to serve during this liminal period. It reveals how, owing to the historical polysemy of bells on the one hand and the social uncertainties of living with COVID on the other, those rituals generated vivid symbolisms and mobilized powerful emotions that sometimes brought about unintended consequences.

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Lukas Ley and Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov

In July 2022, at the EASA meetings in Belfast, we passed the baton to a new editorial team comprising Chief Editors Dimitra Kofti (Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens) and Isabelle Rivoal (University of Paris, Nanterre) as well as Assistant Editor Ville Laakkonen (Tampere University) and Book Review Editor Arne Harms (Max Plank Institute for Social Anthropology). The new team has started to process new submissions and will introduce itself in one of the first editorials of 2023. We look forward to their contribution to this distinguished journal and wish them a felicitous term of office.

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Being Howard Jacobson

An Introduction

Bryan Cheyette

Howard Jacobson (1942–) has been the leading Jewish writer in Britain for nearly four decades. He remains at the height of his powers with the recent publication of his memoir, Mother’s Boy: A Writer’s Beginnings (2022) which is referred to throughout this introduction. I will return to Jacobson’s first novel, Coming from Behind (1983), to show how it relates to his ‘golden’ period which is the focus of the articles in this Special Issue. Novels produced during this period include: The Mighty Walzer (1999), Kalooki Nights (2006), The Finkler Question (2010), J: A Novel (2014) and Shylock Is My Name (2016). Jacobson’s growing confidence – moving between the individual and the collective, between comedy and tragedy, and between realism and experimentalism – will be at the heart of the introduction.

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Bequeathing a World

Ecological Inheritance, Generational Conflict, and Dispossession

Kath Weston

In recent debates about climate change, a transmission model of ecological inheritance has apportioned responsibility for ecological damage to generations portrayed as locked in conflict, while depicting Earth as a worldly possession capable of being assigned to a set of heirs. With a focus on North America, this article examines assumptions about ownership, possession, dispositional authority, and succession embedded in the trope of bequeathing an ecologically compromised world to a receiving generation that worries it might be the last. Many of these assumptions create exclusions for those who already apprehend themselves as dispossessed. Indigenous conceptions of responsibility, temporality, and place suggest ways to begin to decolonise the rhetoric of ecological inheritance, allowing humans to inhabit the everyday under signs other than extinction, regardless of how things turn out.

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Black as Drought

Arid Landscapes and Ecologies of Encounter across the African Diaspora

Brittany Meché

In the poem “ca’line’s prayer,” Lucille Clift on marks the progression of Black generational memory through the metaphor of drought. The poem’s 1969 publication coincided with one of the worst droughts in modern history. Across the West African Sahel late rains and the onset of famine led to widespread death and displacement. Starting from this conjunctural moment in the late 1960s and using Clifton’s provocation about the “Blackness” of drought, this article contemplates representations of arid environments in African and Afro-diasporic texts. I consider various imaginings of arid spaces, presented simultaneously as wasteland and homeland. Surveying critical scholarship on the Sahelian drought, I interrogate the contested meanings of Black life and death in deserts. I also consider the contemporary resonances of these themes, engaging African eco-critical and Afro/African futurists texts. I show how these portrayals of actual and imagined deserts reveal alternate modes of encounter forged through Black/African ecological thought.

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Alex A. Moulton and Inge Salo

Black geographies and Black ecologies are epistemological frameworks that attend to the ideological, philosophical, and material portent of Black movements in dialectical, but not deterministic, relationships with the geographies and environments of Black life and struggle. This article reviews the Black geographies and Black ecologies literature, showing the convergence of these bodies of scholarship around themes of racial, spatial, and ecological justice. The thematic, methodological, and analytical overlaps between Black geographies and Black ecologies are quite apropos for understanding the current realities faced by Black racial-spatial-ecological justice movements; for clarifying the geographies, histories, and ecologies of Black transformation, flourishing, and everyday resistance; and for explicating how global environmental crises are rooted in racial capitalism and regimes of racialization (a sociopolitical crisis).

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Black Placemaking under Environmental Stressors

Dryland Farming in the Arid Black Pacific, 1890–1930

Maya L. Shamsid-Deen and Jayson M. Porter

Dry farming, or techniques of cultivating crops in regions with domineering dry seasons, was central to Black agricultural life across the Black diaspora, but especially in the Black Pacific. Ecologically, the Black diaspora transformed semi-arid ecosystems in both the Atlantic and Pacific. However, there is a dearth of Black narratives that draw on the ecological and botanical relationships held with the land. Through a collaborative botanical and historical approach that blends historical ecology and botany, we evaluate how Black placemaking occurred despite arid climatic stressors and as a result of ecological and cultural knowledge systems. Highlighting Black agricultural life in Costa Chica, Mexico and Blackdom, New Mexico, we argue that people and plants made cimarronaje (or collective and situated Black placemaking) possible in the Western coasts and deserts of Mexico and New Mexico through botanical knowledge systems of retaining water and cultivating a life in water-scarce environments.

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Amani C. Morrison

Affordance theory, originating in ecological psychology but adopted by the field of design studies, refers to possibilities for action that a subject perceives in an environment. I posit Black spatial affordance, critically employing affordances with an eye toward Black ecological and geographical practices, and I apply it to the Great Migration residential landscape and literature. Grounded in racial capitalist critique, Black geographic thought, and cultural critique at the intersections of race, place, and performance, Black spatial affordance works as an analytic to engage Black quotidian practice in racially circumscribed and delineated places and spaces. Operating at multiple scales, Black spatial affordance engages the specificity of places structured by racism to analyze the micro-level spatial negotiations Black subjects devise and employ in recognition of the terrain through which they move or are emplaced. Employing Black spatial affordance enables critical inquiry into the spatial navigation of subjects who occupy marginal positions in society.