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This issue of Radical History Review contemplates empire as a global process involving sexualized subjects and objects. Contributions from several disciplines reconsider the history of sex and (or in) empire, critically engaging scholars’ recounting of those pasts in recent decades. On balance, the issue highlights fluidity and continuity in the relationships between sex and imperialism, across traditional periodizations and geographies.
Laura Briggs ruminates on some of the key, recurrent sites of empire studies, reminding us why the study of imperialism remains critical and why feminism is the logical lens through which we should evaluate contemporary modes of empire. Katrina Phillips assembles a series of provocative photographs related to her work on Indian historical reenactments. The photographs evoke complex relationships between sex, gender, empire, and pageantry. One of the images serves as the cover of this issue, eloquently bespeaking fantasies about racialized threats to white womanhood.
Rachel Sarah O’Toole uses a case study from colonial Peru to examine empire at work in the realms of sex, gender, fantasy, and religiosity. Elizabeth Mesok exposes the weaponization of gender and sexuality as counterinsurgency assets in Afghanistan and Iraq, where women’s affective labor serves the performative needs of liberal empire. Vernadette Gonzalez brings us the story of General Douglas MacArthur’s mixed-race Philippine-born mistress, illuminating the intimacies and intimate hierarchies that have underpinned US imperialism.
Histories of the Present Emmanuel David examines Filipina call center workers and the surprising forms of intimacy forged in the outposts of empire where they work. Keith L. Camacho analyzes debates about regulating same-sex “domestic partnerships,” arguing that an emergent “homomilitarism” reproduces heteronormative and imperial frameworks in the Pacific.
Remembrance María Elena Martínez, a brilliant and radical historian, died on November 16, 2014. Martínez was a key organizer and former director of the Tepoztlán Institute, so we have asked some who knew her from Tepoztlán or who attended the institute along with her to reflect on her life and work. The final pages of this issue are dedicated to the difficult and sad work of remembering a friend and colleague who departed far too soon.