Our issue opens with a provocation. Kevin Lewis O’Neill and Jatin Dua draw on their own research — on a Pentecostal drug rehabilitation center in Guatemala and on piracy off the coast of Somalia, respectively — to suggest that some commonality might be extracted to develop the concept of “captivity.” While O’Neill and Dua don’t generate a general theory, their use of comparative ethnographic work across different national contexts begins an exciting inductive theorization that could link a diverse range of fields, from criminology to the history of slavery, to economics, sociology, and anthropology.

Lewis R. Gordon’s Forum essay on black aesthetics is one of the more intellectually exciting pieces of writing I have edited since taking over at Public Culture. Gordon begins with a powerful question: Can we construct “black aesthetics” if we believe, as some have argued, that “aesthetics...

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