Molecular Intimacies of Empire (special forum of Journal of Transnational American Studies)

Hsuan Hsu's picture
Call for Publications
August 1, 2020
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Race / Ethnic Studies, Environmental History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies


Molecular Intimacies of Empire

This special forum on The Molecular Intimacies of Empire seeks to deepen intellectual connections between New Materialist scholarship (including in environmental humanities, Science and Technology Studies, and material feminism) and transnational American studies by attending to U.S. neo/imperialism’s reliance on racialized and uneven molecular intimacies. The concept of the “intimacies of empire” (Ann Laura Stoler) has been tremendously generative in transnational American studies, orienting groundbreaking studies that interrogate such topics as “metroimperial intimacies,” “stranger intimacy,” “the intimacies of four continents,” “the racialization of intimacy,” “intimate migrations,” and hemispheric “institutions of intimacy” (Victor Mendoza, Nayan Shah, Lisa Lowe, David Eng, Deborah Boehm, Rodrigo Lazo). The Molecular Intimacies of Empire shifts the scale of analysis to empire’s mutually constitutive relation with chemical bonds through the simultaneously transnational and “trans-corporeal” (Stacy Alaimo) circulation of foods, flavors, scents, dyes, toxics, plants, pathogens, drugs, chemical processes, and other biological and synthetic materials. 

We seek essays and creative works that engage and build on scholarship on the transnational scale of food production and capitalist metabolics (Sidney Mintz, Rachel Lee, Allison Carruth, Alyshia Galvez); the racialization of flavors, scents, and food/scent chemicals such as curry, sucrose, musk, lactose, and monosodium glutamate (Kyla Wazana Tompkins, Erica Fretwell, Sarah Tracy, Robert Ku); the transnational/colonial sourcing, testing, and circulation of pharmaceuticals (Alexa Dietrich, Michael Brown); the uneven geographies of risk that sustain industrial and post-industrial society (Alaimo, Rob Nixon, Michelle Murphy, Vanessa Agard-Jones, Macarena Gomez-Barris); the supposedly unintended biological and ecological effects of chemical and radioactive weapons (Kristen Simmons, Marjin Nieuwenhuis, Edwin Martini, Elizabeth DeLoughrey), and projects of resistance, coalition, and/or futurity grounded in these shifting and frequently toxic molecular intimacies (Jina Kim, Robin Wall Kimmerer). How might we rethink the conditions and/or possibilities of intimacy amidst these “chemical regimes of living” (Murphy)?

Submissions might consider the historical, material, and/or cultural processes that extend U.S. empire and capital accumulation not only across geographic space, but throughout the biochemical constituents to human and nonhuman bodies, minds, and moods; the aesthetic challenges posed by efforts to trace increasing capitalist and military investments in chemosensory processes; and patterns of intersection or divergence between molecular and interpersonal “intimacies.”

The editors, David Vázquez and Hsuan Hsu, invite 250-word abstracts due by August 1, 2020. The editors will review abstracts and invite full-length essays and creative works of between 5000-8000 words. Draft full-length essays and creative works will be due no later than February 28, 2021, and should not exceed 8000 words including endnotes and bibliography.

Please email abstracts to by August 1, 2020.