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Rudnytsky, P.L. (2002). Preface. Am. Imago, 59(2):113-116.

(2002). American Imago, 59(2):113-116


Peter L. Rudnytsky

Among the meanings given by the Oxford English Dictionary to the word “register,” when used as a noun, are “a book or volume in which regular entry is made of particulars or details of any kind which are considered of sufficient importance to be exactly and formally recorded; a written record or collection of entries thus formed” and “the compass of a voice or instrument; the particular range of tones which can be produced by certain voices.” By calling this issue of American Imago “Cultural Registers,” I mean to evoke both these meanings of a “written record” and a “range of tones” in the musical sense.

Each of the four papers that follows is a report by a researcher on the front lines of a different cultural arena—the teacher in the classroom, the scholar in the study, the anthropologist in the “field,” and the analyst in her professional milieu. In every instance, the horizons of psychoanalysis are expanded by these close encounters, and a disquieting yet productive feeling of estrangement is their inevitable concomitant.

In “The Secret Joys of Antiracist Pedagogy,” Phillip Barrish reflects with singular forthrightness on his experience of jouissance as a white liberal professor teaching Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, in which the word “nigger” appears over 200 times, to his classes of predominantly (but not exclusively) white students at the University of Texas at Austin. Barrish sets his pedagogical parable against the backdrop of two political controversies touched off by an actual or perceived use of the “n-word.”

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