Volume I, Issue 3 (Summer 2022)

Letter from the Editor

August 26th, 2022

Where are you now? Look around. What’s it like there? I assume you are either inside, outside, or somewhere in between. How does it make you feel, the environment in which you currently find yourself taking up space? Maybe you’re reading this in some special place, “your” place; a much-coveted corner table at your favorite coffeeshop, or a park bench beneath a shade tree. Maybe you’re reading this while stationary, sitting (or standing) at your office desk; maybe you are in motion. Maybe you are in motion thirty-thousand feet above us all, on your way to some exciting destination; maybe you are moving but miserable, traveling at high-speed through the Upside Down, squished between mouth-breathers on an inbound train. Maybe you are both in motion and stationary, reading this while running on a treadmill at the gym (but it’s the corner treadmill by the window – not so bad).

Wherever you are, you are somewhere that has had, and continues to have, immeasurable meaning for innumerable beings. Across time and space, place transcends. Symbols change, but earlier meanings do not – and arguably should not – disappear. A decade ago, scholar Katherine McKittrick’s “Plantation Futures” essay illustrated this point well.[1] In her work, the plantation represents a “penultimate site of black dispossession, antiblack violence, racial encounter, and innovative resistance,” a former no-man’s lands where Black people were “planted” in the Americas.[2] Today, the plantation is a place of contradiction, a space reminding us of earlier backwardness, harboring a past we too quickly render “over and done with.”[3] However, rather than see plantations as sites best relegated to our collective rear-view mirror, McKittrick sees the plantation as a space moving through time, one which “calls forth the prison, the city,” simultaneously magnetic and repulsive. Such sites, very much alive today, are in need of reconceptualization in order to manage, to grow with/from, to coexist alongside. McKittrick reminds us that the plantation as a space may change form, or it may remain intact, but it persists in our collective landscape – mental and physical. Reborn with each generation, the plantation is not going anywhere

When we put out the call for papers for this third issue of Ampersand, “(De)Constructing Environs,” we sought reflections on environment, broadly interpreted – public, private; shared, solitary; external, internal. We expected contributions that looked at landscapes, real and imagined, built and natural. We hoped to receive submissions that told histories of literal and metaphorical spaces, and analyzed the impacts/effects we humans have on our environments, be it via erecting walls, ideologies, or both. In the end, we got far more than we could have imagined, a fact reflected in the nine excellent essays you will read here.

This selection of essays encompasses much of what defines American Studies (insofar as it is possible to define at all), drawing our gaze backward with historical and material culture analyses, then pulling us forward again with introspective musings by undergraduate authors and scholars striving to create progressive change to environments both natural and human-made. These interdisciplinary – or, rather, multidisciplinary – studies challenge the status quo and remind us of the instability of assumptions that too often accompany us into spaces of knowledge development. 

Firmly planted within the natural world is Marina Dawn Wells, whose personal reflection on growing up with and alongside coastal marsh “wetlandscapes” illuminates how these spaces are naturally liminal and may “express the qualities of queerness… reject binaries… encourage the beauty of transformation.” Back in the land of concrete confinement, Keara Sebold meets us at Manhattan’s Tenement Museum, walks us inside, and shows us what material objects – from wallpaper to furniture and other household adornments – can teach us about the ways early twentieth century immigrants did (or did not) perceive a sense of permanence in their lives. Opposite permanence is, of course, impermanence, and Whitney S. May provides a thought-provoking analysis of this state by considering the slow death of the American shopping mall; what Netflix’s adaptation of R.L. Stein’s young adult novel series, Fear Street, can tell us about place-making whose roots lie in this dead and dying American landscape; and what to make of our seemingly relentless “dead mall nostalgia.” Further delving into the world of visual and digital media are scholars Elizabeth Walters and Juliana Jones. The former provides us with a book review of Anne-Katrin Weber’s Television before TV (2022), which looks at how television entered and then persisted in the early 20th-century home; the ways in which it transcended cultures and geographical boundaries; how it ultimately became a fixture in domestic spaces. The latter considers what Kazou Ishiguro’s novel Klara and the Sun (2021) and Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together (2011) can teach us about sociability and relatability in our late-pandemic existence, particularly with regard to creating spaces of loneliness and/or connectivity in digital spaces. Anne Boyd rewinds us to the intersection of Arizona’s founding narratives and the development of its more popular monuments/memorials, ponders methodological frameworks for space designation, and provides us with an assessment of how such sites have been built upon hierarchies of race and white supremacy. As we began, so will we end – that is, in the natural world – so it is fitting that scholars Madeleine Wright and Alyssa Kreikemeier (ed.), Natalie Clott, Melinda Lituchy, Chinanuekepele Okoli, Cal Parise Jessica Schwarz, Matthew Siegel, Delaney Foster, and William De Rocco round out this issue in the ecological realm. Wright analyzes how author Jesmyn Ward’s novel, Salvage the Bones (2011), presents her subjects – marginalized Black people residing at the margins of the American Gulf Coast, populations most vulnerable to climate change and events like Hurricane Katrina – through a lens of ecological feminism, effectively subverting social hierarchies in her writing by “collapsing boundaries between the human and natural world.” Kreikemeier (ed)’s essay is accompanied by eight undergraduate student voices, whose work this past spring in her experiential writing seminar “Nature/Culture in Crisis” (Spring 2022, Boston University) addressed topics such as climate injustice, human connectivity with the natural environment, and notions of colonial time/space; we are grateful for their presence in this issue. 

Finally, we are excited to announce a new addition to Ampersand fold called “Spotlight: Graduate Student Experiences in the Academy.” Kicking off the series is Alyssa Cortes Kennedy, whose personal essay “Educated Latina: A Poetic Narrative of the Experiences of a Latina Doctoral Scholar” shares her experiences as a first-generation Latina student working to navigate white-dominant academic spaces.

Thank you for making time to read our latest issue of Ampersand. We are proud of how it has come together and hope you enjoy reading it, wherever you are.

Julia Carroll, Boston University


    [1] Katherine McKittrick, “Plantation Futures,” Small Axe 17, No. 3 (Duke University Press, November 2013): 1-15.

    [2] McKittrick, 8-9.

    [3] McKittrick, 9.


    Volume 1, Issue 3 (Summer 2022)


    Anne Boyd, Essay: “The National Mall of the West: Constructing Phoenix Through the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, 1960-2021.”

    Juliana Jones, Essay: “A Futurity of Loneliness in Klara and the Sun.”

    Whitney S. May, Essay: “Bearing the Palls of Shopping Malls: Necropsying (Dead) Mall Nostalgia in Netflix’s Fear Street Trilogy.”

    Keara Sebold, Essay: “Adorning the Tenement: A Reflection on the Shifting Immigrant Worldview.”

    Marina Wells, Essay: “Marshes to Trouble Us.”

    Madeleine Wright, Essay: “Like the Worst, She’s a Woman’: Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones Through an Ecological Feminist Lens.”


    Book Reviews:

    Betsy (Elizabeth) Walters, Book Review: Television before TV: New Media and Exhibition Culture in Europe and the USA, 1928-1939 By Anne-Katrin Weber.”



    Alyssa Kreikemeier, et al.: “Loving and Losing: Finding a Way to Say Goodbye.”


    Spotlight: Graduate Student Experiences in the Academy:

    Alyssa S. Cortes Kennedy, Essay: “Educated Latina: A Poetic Narrative of the Experiences of a Latina Doctoral Scholar.”