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Title: From the editors
Publication info: Ann Arbor, Michigan: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library

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Source: From the editors
Evanston, IL: Program of African Studies, Northwestern University
no. 1, pp. 1, 1991


Welcome to Passages. Texts, including Passages, have complex histories and sociologies. In the summer of 1989, Gaurav Desai—then completing his undergraduate studies at Northwestern and embarking on graduate study at Duke [an important passage]—conceived a new serial publication which would take as its project the assemblage and stimulation of new and diverse work in cultural studies ... most specifically, writing on Africa and the African humanities in all the possible sites of production of culture. As Gaurav's proposal circulated among faculty at Northwestern and beyond, Irma Majer, working in French literature and having just moved to Evanston, suggested the name Passages ... a play on words and acronyms which also beautifully conveyed the textual, heterotopic, metaphorical, conjunctive, and temporal elements of cultural production. In the summer of 1990, Laura Helper—now a graduate student in Anthropology at Rice University—turned her attention, and unusually acute research skills, to the investigation of how a journal begins its life. A plan evolved for a twice a year journal operating initially outside the framework of university presses—without the bureaucratic and censoring functions of a board and peer review—inviting contributions of diverse origin, length, and intention, availing itself of low production costs and securing a portion of its mailing expense as an appendage to—or enclosure within—PAS, a five times a year publication of the Program of African Studies. Passages would evolve, according to this plan, through the collaboration of guest editors, and Gaurav was invited to work on the editing of the first two numbers.

Passages is intended to evoke the processes of construction of a world of traffic, travel, voyage, transport, caravan, migration, journey, relocation, exploration, field-work, dispossession, pilgrimage, resettlement, circulation, trade, communication, transposition, return, and exile ... in which meaning and power attach themselves to the heterotopic circumstances of observation, inscription, reading, hearing, and learning ... the organization of states and empires through the traffic of officials, goods, ideas, and edicts ... the constitution of the New World through a commerce in slaves ... the circulation of religious ideas, practices, and law through travel, itinerant pedagogy, missions, and pilgrimages ... the constitution of knowledge of the world through journeys of exploration, commerce, and description ... the formation of classes and societies through the migrations of laborers, students, intellectuals, and capital ... the connection and disconnection of cultures, peoples, and nationalities through movements of individuals, groups, ideas, knowledge, and through the constructions of boundaries and communications.

Passages is also intended to evoke the significance of the partial text in the constitution of our present world. The partial text bears its own problematics ... unfolding amidst a recognition of the multiplicity of forms of textuality ... the never exhausted aesthetics and programs of textualization ... the always uncertain, ambiguous, sociologies of authorship and audience ... the never finished boundaries between art, surveillance, and censorship ... the sometimes paradoxical nature of act and effect in performance ... the always contentious and forever productive sites of translation in which the very intention of the text may be transfigured ... and the programs of transcription, redaction, and publication in which texts may be transformed into property or commodity.

Passages, the partial texts of discovery of "new worlds" from an explorer's path, become critical to the formation of new forms of authority, new states, new colonialisms and imperialisms. Passages, the partial texts finessing the complexities of mediation, negotiation, and interpretation become "law" through codification of the "customary," yet injecting the situation of the "authentic" into contests over representation: discourses over "what is" or "what should be" or "what was." Passages, the partial texts of description, become a medium of control of whole populations and also a source of resistance ... a resource of invention, re-invention, identity.

Partial texts carry meaning, knowledge, and interest across time. Passages evoke chronicity, rituals of transition, processes of transformation, eras of change. They produce memory and interpretation; they impel new inscriptions, new texts; and they occasionally force hesitations, and powerful silences. They constitute passages through disparate but connected terrains and moments ... forcing examinations, interpretations, comprehensions of the powers of complex topographies, temporalities, and temporicities.

Partial texts move through passages among diverse contexts of inscription, reading, hearing, interpretation, analysis, deconstruction ... directing attention to the distinctive and also related programs of cultural production within different aesthetic and intellectual projects ... schools, universities, research institutes, state organizations, arts organizations, theaters, film collectives, literary societies, but also the "public arenas" of the street, bar, taxi, courtroom and the "intimate arenas" of family, household, friends.

Passages invite/s more exploration, more travel, traffic, circulation, among sites, texts, authorships, and audiences. In the first issue of this new journal, one text is produced within a court of law; another is produced through a unique divination. An exhibition is treated as a text, itself productive of a series of texts through an unusual extension of the dialogics of photographer and subject. An expert on a certain genre of songs finds the authority and authenticity of inscription of the text—a tape recording—challenged by the singer whose voice the recording "captured." Another seeks to disclose—through the close reading of one text—the ways in which the body of a woman becomes a site of inscription and silence in a patriarchal culture, while another re-centers practices and powers of women that institutions and practices of domination have pushed off-stage.

Passages are—in this case, is—on-going, open to new entries, readings, interpretations, writings, inviting suggestions, criticism, and contributions ... at Passages, the Program of African Studies, Northwestern University, 620 Library Place, Evanston, Illinois 60208 USA. Fax: 708-491-3739. Submissions particularly welcome on IBM-compatible disk.

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