south and Critical Ethnic Studies
Since 1968, SLJ (Southern Literary Journal), now south: a scholarly journal, has produced forward thinking and innovative scholarship in the field. It has been my distinct pleasure as editor to shepherd the transition from a more disciplinary home to an interdisciplinary one. In addition and perhaps most importantly, it has been an honor to publish many emerging scholars along the way. Our emphasis upon the importance of creative arts and humanities in the critical studies imaginary has highlighted work from Fred Moten, Joo Ok Kim and Ben Hamburger. Special issues on the legacy of Patsy Yaeger, manifestations of white supremacy in the global south, pedagogical praxis and the “southern” syllabus and finally, quaring childhood have helped to develop the critical lens of southern studies more generally.
As we look toward a future that this critical gaze might enable, it is with great excitement and some sadness – what in this part of the world is not bittersweet? – that I announce that south will cease its print and online production in the fall of 2019. south committed itself to a rigorous reimagining of the territory and its intellectual work. I am pleased to also announce that the work that south began just a few years ago will continue in another initiative: Critical Ethnic Studies/Critical Ethnic South. In order to provide some continuity between the journal and the larger initiative (described below), we will retain this website as a focal point and public facing documentation of our efforts to continue to press for a vibrant, inclusive and interdisciplinary space for critical engagements.
This initiative is populated by a group of faculty across the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill committed to re-envisioning the global south by engaging it critically and thinking through the energies that diverse community can bring to such an endeavor. I am pleased to also report that the combined intellectual work of SLJ and south will have tangible manifestation in an endowment for the Initiative. As those of us engaged in critical ethnic studies/critical ethnic south scholarship have remarked upon, these are challenging and often dangerous times, and some of our best minds (many of whom grace the pages of south) have been put to the task of creating innovative approaches to and solutions for our current dis-order.
If we cast our eyes up and down the east coast, and of course, to the west, we can find any number of intersectional critical ethnic studies driven programs, many of which have been in existence for at least twenty years. Such programs help to ground University efforts to retain and promote faculty of color and indigenous faculty by providing a diverse intellectual home for faculty and students. These programs appear across a range of University spaces – from research one and Ivy League, to land grant institutions, large and small. When a predominantly POC pool of students in the coming community search for a college home, they will be looking for these intellectual units as indicators of how committed a university is to having such truly diverse conversations on the ground.
Why Critical Ethnic Studies (CES) at UNC?
In the global community, the role of intersectional thought has been transformative for both institutions and individuals. Critical Ethnic Studies at Carolina can provide visionary leadership for Universities and Colleges in the region through focused intellectual work on institutional power, systems of privilege and inequity, and the regional and global cultures that engage and survive them. We not only can create the institutional space for the powerful lens of CES at Carolina and in the region, but also utilize our strengths in the state among indigenous and Latinx scholars and communities. We envision a different kind of “south,” one in which students and faculty can engage, for example, issues of reparation and sovereignty, (im)migration and labor, gender difference and inclusion as categories with overlapping strands, rather than competing ideologies. Robust CES work has long happened at Carolina, but most of this work has happened in individual departments or in small groups without the funding necessary to continue such rich scholarly endeavors. In many ways our CES work at Carolina began with the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Faculty Diversity and its creation of a super course (“Intersectionality and Social Justice”) to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of social justice work and scholarship. We already have that momentum and this new initiative is meant to build upon that work and to collectively engage our various talents into a critical hub for work in ethnic studies, broadly defined.
The CES initiative and its three year plan:
To convene faculty over during the fall of 2019 and build consensus for the following endeavors:
- to provide a hub for interdisciplinary work engaged in critical ethnic studies perspectives
- to fund a working dissertation writing group for students engaged in interdisciplinary work in the field
- to move toward the formulation of a plan for a graduate certificate program in CES
- to create funding sources for a post-doc in CES work
This new initiative and the unprecedented endowment that helps to shape it couldn’t have been possible without the amazing work of managing editors, scholars and friends of south. I am deeply appreciative of everyone who has worked on and for the journal and very humbled by and excited for the next steps of CES and the collective that has engendered it at Carolina.