The impartial jury has remained an important goal of the American judicial system throughout the republic’s history. That ideal has shared its staying power with ancient procedures still used in the jury selection process, the most important example being voir dire. Originally a guarantee that defendants would face juries devoid of prejudiced individuals, voir dire allows the parties—i.e. the lawyers—of a trail to inspect the pool of jurors, lobbying for and selecting individuals they hope will give a fair hearing. Many modern observers doubt that the end results are impartial juries. Rather, the history of voir dire often includes lawyers systematically excluding racial and ideological minority groups, and women. This paper explores the problems encountered in the voir dire process, and the solutions that have been proposed and implemented over the past century. Further, the question is raised whether voir dire can possibly live alongside the modern desire for juries that are both impartial and fairly representative of the community’s population.
In the American imagination, the myth of the mainstream projects an ideal of English as the legal, official national language, a belief that conflates socio-historical attitudes about language with nationalistic ideology. A music video on YouTube, entitled “Press One for English,” debuts at a time of increasingly vocal protests about nationwide English-only laws. The video represents a piece of pop-propaganda dependent on both its lyrics and its visual icons to advance its ideological stance on language. Regarding English as an earned right identifies it as symbolic capital, a political symbol used to identify what it means to be American, as well as to control that identity. The social order expressed in the song suggests a collective ideal of an America in which today’s immigrants are expected to assimilate by learning English, just as was “always done” by immigrants in the past. The song uses entertainment as a vehicle for nationalism—and ultimately for a type of propagandist pedagogy to promote the American dream, a linguistic self-reliance that expresses national identity and becomes part of a civic story dependent on assimilation.
One of the serious boundaries and dilemmas for a journal that wishes to reach an international audience is the matter of language. Working from Canada, most of NeoAm’sexecutive have grownup or been well-exposed to a bilingual environment and immersed in the “language” of multiculturalism. But, this is not to say that Canadians, like our American counterparts to the south and in nations around the world, are not actively engaged in discussions about “accommodation” or “compromise over the cultural makeup of the nation-state”. Recently we decided that the journal would attempt to launch a series of posters and advertisements in multiple languages, despite the organization’s (current) inability to actually accept papers in the posted languages. In other words, the posters would be used for the exclusive purpose of increasing general awareness among a wider global audience, as NeoAm would not be able to alter its practice of requesting written works in English only. This decision to launch the posters has produced a fair amount of debate, even amongst our small executive. Some have argued that the journal would be misrepresented by advertisements in languages other than English, while others argue that so much of the work done in American Studies assumes a monolingual readership. Needless to say, this debate may never be solved—certainly not within the scope of our small publication—but it points to the crucial and problematic role that language plays in the constitution of identity, subjectivization and the cultural apparatuses that sustain any collective identity.
Seeking to expand and explore the intellectual and creative foundations of journals like NeoAmericanist, Executive Editor Steve Shaddock recently contacted and interviewed Open Access advocate Peter Suber. Dr. Suber is the Open Access Project Director at Public Knowledge, a public-interest advocacy group in Washington D.C. focusing on information policy. He's also a Research Professor of Philosophy at Earlham College and Senior Researcher at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). He has a Ph.D. in philosophy and a J.D. from Northwestern University. He is the author of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter and editor of the Open Access News weblog. He was the principal drafter of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and sits on the Steering Committee of the Scientific Information Working Group of the U.N. World Summit on the Information Society, the Publishing Working Group of Science Commons, the Advisory Board of American Library association Information Commons, and the Board of Governors of the International Consortium for the Advancement of Academic Publishing. Lingua Franca magazine named him one of "Academia's 20 Most Wired Faculty" in 1999. He has been active in promoting open access for many years through his research, speaking, and writing.