Volume II, Issue 2 (Summer 2023)

Letter from the Editors

September 6, 2023

Welcome to the Summer 2023 edition of Ampersand: An American Studies Journal. Ampersand was founded by PhD students in Boston University’s American & New England Studies Program to provide a forum for innovative work from emerging scholars. This issue is our most comprehensive yet, reflecting just how deeply our issue’s theme, “Colonialism’s Long Shadow,” resonated with scholars across disciplines. Informed by the foundational work of Edward Said, this issue asked them to consider: how does colonialism persist in American culture and society? Our contributors answered with a remarkable array of scholarship. They examine the enduring legacies of colonial practices of the past, grapple with the persistence of colonialism in the present, and consider how visions of the future are shaped by its insidious power. Interrogating the legacies of colonialism in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, these scholars encourage us to question cultural narratives of memory, identity, and authority.

Several of our authors investigate the enduring links between colonialism and place. Tying video games to the legacy of the novel Robinson Crusoe, William Glover provocatively considers the ongoing popularity of video games premised around the conquest of land and property. Caitlin Graziani explores how the narratives of settler colonialism and its relationship to land manifest in far and alt-right communities, extending further to ideas of reproduction and heterosexuality. Kirin Agustin Rajagopalan not only historicizes the flatlands of East Oakland in relation to carcerality, land, and dispossession, but also unpacks the relationship between “racialized state violence, moral panics around criminality, conditions of organized abandonment and underdevelopment, and antipolitical insurgency.” Estefania Vallejo Santiago and Ali Byers both spotlight artists urging their communities to address their complicated colonial pasts. Vallejo Santiago deconstructs the history of the Creole House in Ponce, Puerto Rico and the ways in which Afro-Puerto Rican artist Damaris Cruz challenges the erasure of Black culture in the house’s architectural history. Byers examines the work of artist Beatrice Glow, whose project Rhunhattan: A Tale of Two Islands uses olfaction to demand visitors to address New York City’s colonial roots. As Byers notes, Glow “asks the question, what does colonialism smell like?” In his play review, GJ Seviliano shows that colonialism also has a taste and is inextricably tied to food and ideas of cultural cuisine. 

This issue features several perspectives of art and expression through the lens of reclamation or reconsideration. Ena Ozaki reviews an exhibition of Life Magazine photography, asking how Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts contended with the magazine’s influential and curated portraiture of 20th-century American life. Tim Chandler reconsiders the biography of Indigenous Canadian artist Annie Pootoogook, demonstrating that the writing of art history is still shaped by pervasive neocolonial tropes. Megan Meyer traces the history of feather mosaics to pre-colonial Aztec communities, providing a long history to a practice that was ultimately appropriated and hybridized by European imperialism. While Meyer examines a pre-colonial history, Chi-Tsung Chang considers a technology-laden future. Chang thoughtfully argues that the Korean filmmaker Kogonada’s futuristic film After Yang (2021) constructs a form of Asian-American identity freed from techno-Orientalist stereotypes.

Finally, our authors foreground themes and methods not only of reclamation, but of defiance. Adrian Deveau explains how some Indigenous filmmakers use the genre of horror to reassert their sovereignty, creatively reworking the genre’s tropes to cast colonial expansion as a tangible villain. Karli Snyder and jessie neal both reveal that Indigenous communities — and, particularly Indigenous women — historically found unique ways to preserve cultural identities in the face of colonial oppression. Snyder shows that some garments provided a way for Indigenous women in New Mexico to express their identity even as European settlers appropriated Indigenous textile practices. Using their family as a case study, neal insightfully documents how CHamoru culture has survived through a matriarchal social structure that outlasted centuries of colonial occupation. 

We are thrilled to bring you these insightful and provocative pieces. We invite you to consider this issue with regard to your own positionality toward colonialism — past, present, and future. Thank you for making time to read this latest issue.

Betsy Walters and Anne Boyd, Boston University

Volume II, Issue 2 (Summer 2023)


Ali Byers, Essay: “Geographies of Care: Beatrice Glow’s Rhunhattan, intimacies, and olfactory art”

Chi-Tsung Chang, Essay: “After Yang, Comes Asian Futurity?”

Tim Chandler, Essay: “Composing Annie Pootoogook: Tropes and Inequity in Neo-Colonial Biography”

Adrian Deveau, Essay: “Let There be Blood: Abjection and Colonial Subjectivation in the Rise of Indigenous Horror Film”

William Glover, Essay: “Ethical dilemmas of the digital Robinsonade: What should we do with ‘colonialist’ video games?”

Caitlin Graziani, Essay: “‘Your Children’s Body is Your Private Property’: White Supremacy and Settler Colonial Rhetoric Among the Far and Alt-Right”

Megan Meyer, Essay: “Post-Colonial Aztec Feather Mosaics”

jessie neal, Essay: “Håfa Adai (The Aloha You’ve Never Heard): A CHamoru Coming of Culture”

Kirin Agustin Rajagopalan, Essay: “From Below and to the East: Notes on Crisis, Dispossession, and Containment in East Oakland’s Flatlands

Estefania Vallejo Santiago, Essay: “Recolectando la Semilla: The Creole House and the Contemporary Art of Damaris Cruz: Negotiating Memory, Place, and Race in Ponce, Puerto Rico”

Karli R. Snyder, Essay: “Weaving Identity and Resistance in Colonial New Spain: Colonization, Women, and Textile Art in Colonial Mexico”


Ena Ozaki, Exhibition Review: “Life Magazine and the Power of Photography” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (October 9, 2022–January 16, 2023)

GJ Sevillano, Play Review: A Taste of Empire: A Play by Jovanni Sy