Founded in 2017, The Bare Life Review is a literary biannual devoted entirely to work by immigrant and refugee authors.
The formation of The Bare Life Review was inspired, largely, by the wave of xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, and anti-intellectualism exemplified in parochial nationalist political movements across the globe.
It is important to stress, however, that while the impulse behind the journal’s founding was political, and while we recognize fully its political implications, its focus remains wholly artistic. At The Bare Life Review, we never speak of “giving voice” to our authors, or of “elevating” their work, because we reject any model that locates ownership of the publishing apparatus elsewhere than the space of artistic production. Our editorial staff lives and works within the community of writers we publish, and believes deeply in the worth of its stories. The journal exists not as a platform given to or shared with its authors, but as a project to be built with and by them.
This, we believe, is a radical premise: refugee not as outsider granted asylum, but as central figure in a new literary paradigm. The dislocation inherent to the immigrant experience is—increasingly in an era of global climate calamity—fundamental to the human experience. Migration, deracination, estrangement: these will be the universal concerns of the coming generations.
Such cultural moments as ours—moments of great trauma, upheaval—are, on a large scale, akin to what we might call the moment of artistic creation: art emergent in the aftermath, in the wake, when the language with which we have previously described the world is no longer adequate to the task, and we must set about creating a new one. The moment when, like Beckett, we feel we can’t go on, and yet we go on. In this respect we might say the refugee moment is the artistic moment: one in which resides the bare kernel of renaissance.
The Bare Life Review takes its name from the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, whose work offers indispensable insight into the nature of migration and displacement. 'Bare life’ may be understood as the condition in which exist whole populations, families, and communities evicted from the political imagination, unseen and unrepresented; a condition of statelessness that is, paradoxically, created by the state. The subject whose life is bare, whose humanity is reduced to mere living or mere being, is the modern day refugee and immigrant, a figure whose existence engenders in the same breath both life and death, arrival and departure, inclusion and exclusion, homecoming and exile.
Nyuol Lueth Tong
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma*
Editorial Advisory Board
*Indicates an editor who also serves on our Editorial Advisory Board
Nyuol Lueth Tong (Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief) is the editor of the first-ever anthology of short fiction from South Sudan, There Is a Country (McSweeney’s, 2013), as well as In Their Faces a Landmark: Stories of Movement and Displacement (McSweeney’s, 2018), a collection of stories by immigrant and refugee writers. Tong studied philosophy and comparative literature at Duke University and fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His short fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Baffler, Intersect Magazine, New Sudan, Gurtong, and NPR, among other publications. He is a Ph.D. student of Comparative Literature at Yale University and is finishing his multi-volume autobiographical novel.
David Wystan Owen (Co-Founder, Publisher) is the author of the forthcoming collection Other People’s Love Affairs: Stories of Glass (Algonquin Books, August 2018). A California native and first generation American, he holds graduate degrees in creative writing from University of California, Davis and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was an Iowa Arts Fellow. His fiction and essays have appeared in A Public Space, The American Scholar, Literary Hub, and elsewhere. Owen serves also as Deputy Editor of The Threepenny Review.
Ellen Namakaokealoha Kamoe (Co-Founder, Director of Operations) is a non-profit development professional. She brings more than a dozen years of experience, having worked and volunteered for a wide range of organizations, including UCs Berkeley and Davis, Seacology, and the ACLU. Kamoe is hapa, with roots in Hawai'i and Austria, where, respectively, the land was taken from her people, and her people were forced from the land. She received her B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from UCLA, spent a semester abroad in Samoa, and is currently pursuing her Master's in Library and Information Science from the University of Washington.