Justice, Power, and Politics — About the Series

Tremendous historic political shifts in the United States, alongside trends in the historical scholarship, have noticeably increased lay as well as scholarly interest in the most contested periods in our nation’s past. Among scholars there has been a particularly marked interest in better understanding the ways in which people have fought for and defined “justice” in this country during the twentieth century, struggled for a greater voice in society (and thus greater power), and attempted to democratize access to politics.

Justice, Power, and Politics

There are three areas that clearly relate to the series themes of “justice, power, and politics”: historical examinations of the dynamics and legacies of grassroots political organizing and of movements for greater social, economic, and political justice; histories of and present day manifestations of policy and the politics of justice; and intellectual histories of “justice.” Without question these areas of scholarship share an interest in the ways in which power relationships evolved in the United States. All are also interested in broadening the way in which we think about politics in both the past and the present.

Historical examinations of the dynamics and legacies of grassroots political organizing and in the history of movements for greater social, economic, and political justice

In recent years an exciting scholarship has emerged that seeks to historicize the social movements of past generations. Although important studies of everything from the civil rights and Black Power movements to disability rights activism, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning) activism, and the justice struggles of the Chicana/o community now exist, such works remain insular—defined by identity-based boundaries such as race and ethnicity—and do not engage in a broader discourse regarding the way in which such struggles played out over time and across communities. This series will draw on the strengths of work being done in program studies areas (African American Studies, Chicana/o Studies, Native American Studies, etc.) but it will more explicitly bring that scholarship into a broader dialogue—either in regard to the questions or topics covered in a particular monograph, or as books grouped in a clearly bounded but expansively framed series.

Histories of and present day manifestations of policy and the politics of justice

Scholarship in this category sheds light on the history of politics and policies related to justice and/or to shifting power relationships in this nation at the policy level. Whether historians are interested in questions related to the history, debates, and struggles of the criminal justice system, education policy, environmental justice, health care, or housing, they are all engaged in scholarship that we feel is new and exciting. When such works come together in one series, historians can begin to think about politics, power relationships, and justice in completely new ways. No longer will such works be locked into insular dialogue with similar works—i.e., works in the history of battles to democratize education at the policy level being locked in dialogue only with works in education policy, works on the history of criminal justice locked in dialogue only with works on prisons. This series invites completely new intellectual debates about the ways in which politics, power, and justice policies evolved over the last century.

Intellectual histories of “justice”

The series will encourage the production and publication of studies that historicize the intellectual questions surrounding justice itself. Again, too long the intellectual study of “justice” has been the preserve of philosophers, sociologists, and legal scholars. It is time for historians to engage in these types of discussions and forge a new intellectual history of “justice.” Given the new interest in the field on justice-related topics, such a literature is already being produced and the series will aid that production.