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Thomas K. Hubbard

Adolescent sexuality has been at the forefront of the recent “Culture Wars,” as is clear from the many news stories and political battles over issues such as sex education, teen pregnancy and STDs, Child Sexual Abuse, enhanced legal regulation of sex offenders, pedophiles on the internet, “sexting” and child pornography. On the one hand adolescents today are more sexually mature than at most historical periods: physical puberty occurs ever earlier (Moller, 1987), while children’s capacity to access the same media as adults grows ever more sophisticated. Already in 1982, Neil Postman presciently observed that electronic media had obliterated the historical technological superiority of literate adults relative to not‐yet‐fully-literate children (Postman, 1982). At that point, he was thinking mainly of television, but his observation has become even more true in the digital age, when adolescents are often the ones teaching their parents and grandparents. 1982 had not yet grasped what would be the ubiquity of MTV or cheap, highly graphic visual pornography in many parents’ closets, or if not there, on their kids’ computer screens. Children have become the most clever at accessing media at precisely the time when popular media culture is more saturated with verbal, musical, and visual images of sexuality than ever before.

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Introduction

Reading Primers and Political Change in European Countries around 1945

Wendelin Sroka and Simona Szakács-Behling

This introduction addresses the origins, general assumptions and intentions of the special issue. The guest editors show how reading primers published and used around the end of the Second World War in several European countries may serve as an object of study in different disciplinary contexts. They present a broad working definition of the reading primer as an educational medium that lends itself to interdisciplinary research which takes into account aspects such as visual and textual content, materiality, and societal contexts of production, distribution and usage. The editors further highlight characteristics of current research into primers and argue in favor of more comparative approaches that reveal transnational dimensions of textbooks designed to teach children how to read and write.

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Nirmala Erevelles and Xuan Thuy Nguyen

When we first proposed this special issue on “Disability and Girlhood: Transnational Perspectives,” we had not yet realized how the urgency in the global humanitarian crises that has escalated in intensity and scope of violence in recent months would demand our thoughtful attention. These crises, the outcomes of social protest, wars, and genocidal acts in many parts of the world for over a decade, punctuated by the Paris bombings of November 2015 that took the lives of 130 innocent citizens; the widespread displacement of 4 million Syrian refugees from their homeland; the increased militarization at the borders of the European Union and the United States; and the environmental impact of this war of terror on the daily survival of disabled and non-disabled people around the globe continue unabated. On the internet, photographic images of women and children with disabilities (and girls in particular) serve as the very embodiment of vulnerability in competition with thousands of other images of suffering (see for instance, Human Rights Watch 2012) vying for the attention of an impatient and fickle global audience (Goggin 2009; Kim 2011). In these images, disability, seen to be synonymous with vulnerability becomes simultaneously hypervisible in its ability to trigger an affective response and hyper-invisible when inspiring an emancipatory response to the material consequences of actually living with a disability.

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Jonathan Magonet

The last time I saw Sheila Shulman z’l was in her hospital bed, our conversation frequently interrupted by nursing interventions and closed curtains. It brought back memories of another last encounter with an exceptional and gifted woman who had similarly played a significant role at Leo Baeck College, Dr Ellen Littmann, the college’s lecturer in Bible studies since its inception. Though miles apart in temperament, both shared an intellectual curiosity and integrity; the one the product of pre-war German Bildung, the other of New York Yiddish culture. Both were ‘outsiders’ struggling for recognition in a patriarchal Jewish culture; both, in their very different ways, were nurturers of their students, their spiritual children. Both managed to retain their dignity to the end amidst the indignities of a distressing terminal illness, and both were surrounded at the end by admirers and friends.