AmeriQuests: Narrative, Law and Society is a forum for writing and research about real and metaphorical quests towards America, defined as either an absolute but unachievable objective, or as some place in the Americas. A peer-reviewed, multi-and inter-disciplinary e-journal, AmeriQuests: Narrative, Law and Society was founded by Robert Barsky to contribute in original and creative fashions to the law, the humanities and the social sciences in ways that promote social justice and humanistic studies. Contributions may focus on questions of dislocation, relocation, displacement, homelessness, American dreams and border crossings of all sorts, from the geographical and the social to the psychological. AmeriQuests: Narrative, Law and Society also features special issues, student issues, book reviews and discussion sections to add to its immediacy, its allure and its relevance. AmeriQuests: Narrative, Law and Society consciously interacts with the Law and Society movement, as well as work in literature and law, worldwide. Submissions are accepted on an on-going basis in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

 Sculpture by Susan Clinard, photographed by Robert Barsky

The Mittens and the Dove: Bernie Sanders' Youthful Generation

Vol 17 No 1 (2022)

Edited by Robert F. Barsky (Vanderbilt). "The goal of this issue is to undertake a critical engagement with Bernie Sanders' ‘New Deal’ style liberalism, his ‘democratic socialism’, and his long-standing interest in Eugene Debs as a labor leader and a candidate for office. The contributors outline the intellectual and political strands that have informed Sanders’ approach to governing, while at the same time identifying what makes him unique in the history of American socialism. The challenges that Sanders addresses are significantly different from those faced by figures from the American socialist past; so it seemed important to assess his sense of a ‘future to believe in’, while at the same time determining why he appeals to the younger generation of American voters. I therefore created a course about Sanders at Vanderbilt University, in order to gleen what some of our students have to say about the Bernie they knew, and the Bernie they came to know better as they read primary and secondary texts relating to his life and work. Within weeks of starting the course, these students began to submit some really fascinating position papers. This special issue, The Mittens and the Dove, is the result."

-- Robert F. Barsky, Editor 

 Sculpture by Susan Clinard, photographed by Robert Barsky

Cultural and Artistic Participation of Migrants

Vol 16 No 1 (2021)

Edited by Robert F. Barsky (Vanderbilt) and Marco Martiniello (FRS-FNRS & Université de Liège). Over the last years, artistic activities have found increasing interest among migration researchers because they prove to be a means of moving beyond ethnic differences towards narratives of identity and belonging that are more apt to capture the current post-migrant reality in many cities and countries. This issue contributes to that work by focusing on the cultural and artistic participation of migrants and descendants of migrants in a transatlantic perspective, and also on the spaces and the moments when this participation intersects with, and binds to, public forms of intercultural collective engagement, whether artistic, political, or both.Empirical and theoretical papers addressed some overriding questions, such as: what role do culture and the arts play in the lives of newcomers and descendants of migrants? Which cultural and artistic practices and forms of participation do newcomers and descendants of immigrants develop? How do cultural institutions take into account those publics often considered to be disengaged at the cultural and artistic level? Do these cultural practices contribute to creating bonds of solidarity between migrants and natives? And if so, what forms of political representation and collective engagement do they inspire? The papers included in this special issue present diverse but connected approaches to the broad themes of art and border crossings. 

Photo by Robert Barsky -- Sculpture by Susan Clinard, who writes: "I am captivated by the weight that these small sculptural objects hold. I intentionally made them small scale so that they would be held in one’s palm and intimately reflected upon. The Talisman boats are quiet meditative sketches; with no oars, no sails… they glide through life with purpose and strength.  Each boat is unique: as each person has a different story to tell and journey in front of them."


Law, Narrative and Border Crossing

Vol 15 No 1 (2020)

Edited by Robert Barsky (Vanderbilt University). Over the 15 years of its existence, AmeriQuests has evolved to address new challenges in the realm of border crossings. Along the way, we have become an important venue for book reviews of new works that describe the challenges facing vulnerable migrants as they seek protection across borders of all kinds, including geographical boundaries, the regions that exist between mental states, and the disciplinary boundaries that sometimes impede the transmission of useful knowledge. This has led us into the realms of art and culture, with the idea that we can often only go so far with judicial or policy solutions, and sometimes we need to look to shift deeply-held attitudes by fictional or symbolic representations. As such, we are creating a new Contours Collaboration space alongside of MIT's Knowledge Futures and PubPub. You can follow our progress at: (

AmeriQuests has also broadened its author base, and for this issue, we are featuring for the first time ever a collection of works written by advanced-level students. The quality of their work attests to the great potential of each of them, and speaks to the power of work being done by young authors. 

The cover art was photographed at the Tate Modern Museum by Victoria Herring, and the subject matter is consistent with the aesthetic border-crossing work that AmeriQuests promotes. The piece, by Yinka Shonibare, consists of a huge room filled with thousands of books with the names of refugees who chose to seek protection in Britain, as well as the names of those who oppose immigration. Some of the book spines are blank too, suggesting the full refugee story is yet to be written. 


Obstacles to Protection for Vulnerable Migrants

Vol 14 No 2 (2019)

Obstacles to Protection of Vulnerable Migrants offers a sweeping overview of current issues in border crossing through rigorous reviews of new scholarship and original work. Covering topics such as homelessness, refugee children, religion and migration, refugee camps, the law of asylum, refugees on the high seas and the pathways taken by vulnerable migrants seeking protection, this issue, edited by Robert F. Barsky, will serve as a valuable resource for researchers and practitioners who work with refugees, undocumented persons, and migration from legal, humanistic and social sciences perspectives. This marks the last issue that will be published under the banner of AmeriQuests as the journal prepares to move to a broader border-crossing mandate, under a new title of BorderQuests. 

The Narratives, Laws and Policies of Crossing Borders

Vol 14 No 1 (2018)

This issue, edited by Robert F. Barsky, features a broad array of border crossings, in narrative, literature, law and in geographical spaces all around the world. The genres, approaches and methods are as diverse as the problems named, and are tackled first by a major article by Thomas Spijkeboer that makes a provocative parallel between the irregularization and eviction of non-white in South Africa during the Apartheid, and the refugee policies carried out in Europe in recent times. Several researchers have also answered the call for 'commentaries', an effective way of interjecting critical voices at this juncture, when the rate of new policies and actions on borders worldwide seems to be moving at break neck (sometimes literally) speed. Finally, AmeriQuests is pursuing with vigor the task of reviewing recent and new works on border crossing, in part because of the urgency of issues discussed therein, and in part because of the lamentable dearth of venues for such reviews, particularly venues that are open access and easily accessible, worldwide. The image for this issue is part of an on-going effort to create Contours Collaborations, a new pubpub-based platform linked to AmeriQuests that features articles, stories, videos and commentaries devoted to the crossing of borders.

Border-Crossing in Law and Literature

Vol 13 No 2 (2017)
This issue, edited by Robert Barsky and David Maraniss, features a series of timely position papers regarding current issues in border-crossing, as well as a collection of Beat Generation inspired ruminations about "America".

The Reception of Baudelaire in Japan, and Sanctuary in "America"

Vol 13 No 1 (2017)
This issue, co-edited by Robert F. Barsky and Daniel Ridge, is the fourth in a series on "cultural modernism" that considers the impact of French modernism upon different parts of the world. The articles were first presented at a 2015 conference at the W.T. Bandy Center devoted to the impact of the poetry and prose of Charles Baudelaire on modern Japanese culture. Cultural border-crossing from France to Japan, and then to America, is complemented by new work by Vanderbilt Law School students on the sanctuary movement and its relation to current events in the United States.

Workers and Decision Making on Production, by Lawrence B. Cohen

Vol 12 No 2 (2017)
Edited by Robert F. Barsky and Jonathan Cohen Lawrence B. Cohen began revising his Columbia University PhD dissertation on worker self management in the spring of 1949, with an eye to publishing it for broad circulation. He completed the first draft in the spring of 1950, and then revised it over the next few years with input from Stanley Aranowitz and Seymour Melman. The final manuscript offers intimate details regarding the workings of a local union, and provides significant insight into worker decision making. The goal of the union that Cohen investigated was to establish "rules which can be applied without bias," and on this basis he sets forth a framework for active worker participation in decision making that relates to production. The complete manuscript of this book is hereby presented for the first time, and it is accompanied by scholarly and historical commentary that helps situate it within its historical context, while at the same time providing illuminating insights for workers and scholars concerned with shifting power relations in the workplace. This issue also offers commentary on Donald Trump's Executive Orders of January 2017 in regards to refugee rights and sanctuary.

Baudelaire, Migration and Cultural Modernisms

Vol 12 No 1 (2015)
Edited by Andrea Mirabile and Daniel Ridge, this issue emerges from the second and third conferences on Cultural Modernisms, held at the W.T. Bandy Center, Vanderbilt University. These articles discuss aspects of the migration and reception of modernisms, in Europe and Latin America. Commentaries on the migrant crises in Europe and the Americas, by Robert Barsky and Julius Grey, speak to current issues in border crossings.

Illegality Regimes: Mapping the Law of Irregular Migration

Vol 11 No 2 (2014)
Edited by Juan M. Amaya-Castro (VU University) and Bas Schotel (University of Amsterdam) Recent years have seen the development of increasingly sophisticated legal and policy approaches to address the phenomenon of irregular immigration. Many states have moved beyond traditional means of law enforcement, such as criminalization, without necessarily abandoning them. In addition, they have begun to employ other areas of law (such as administrative law and labor law) in pursuit of controlling irregular immigration. For example, the verification of legal residence status, by means of ID-controls, has become increasingly necessary in the day to day life of all people: citizens and non-citizens alike. Private citizens, and not government agents, are evolving into the primary enforcers of these policies, as they have been made legally responsible for the control of legal residence status, for example in the case of employment. These legal and policy instruments have sometimes been justified with reference to economic theories, such as 'attrition through enforcement', the broken window theory, and most recently 'self-deportation', a term that ironically originated in a stand-up sketch performed by two Hispanic comedians in the mid '90s, and has since then been promoted to a major policy proposal in the Romney campaign for the US presidential elections. Among economic scholars, a debate about the (lack of) effectiveness of these policies has been growing the last couple of years. What is still absent, however, is a more rigorous analysis by legal and other social science scholars. This special issue aims to explore the more systemic dimensions of these responses to irregular migration.

Cultural Modernism in the Americas 1: Québec

Vol 11 No 1 (2014)
Edited by Robert F. Barsky, Michel Pierssens and Daniel Ridge, this issue addresses the emergence of modernism and modernity in Québec, and the ways this process has been influenced by French modernism. The articles presented here grew out of a conference on the effects of French modernism upon the work of Québécois artists and writers, presented in collaboration with Vanderbilt University's W.T. Bandy Center in 2013. 

Approaches to Literature, Law and the Crises of Capitalism Within and Beyond the Americas

Vol 10 No 1 (2013)
This issue features two seminal works, by Marc Angenot and Julius Grey, that contribute to and expand the field of literature and law by bringing to bear historical and political perspectives from two of Canada's most powerful and crucial voices. In addition, the issue continues AmeriQuests longstanding work in the Americas, in the publication of new fiction, and an on-going commitment to reviewing new titles relating to the missions of the journal. In the spirit of the dialogism we hope to promote, we have also included a commentary by one of the authors, Marc Angenot, describing the intellectual path that led him to "1889", and the "social discourse" framework elaborated in its wake.

Approaches to the Americas

Vol 8 No 1 (2011)
This issue features works on myths in Brazil, an assessment of Canadian literature's place in Comparative Literary Studies and, through a wide array of book reviews, the current approaches to postcolonial studies and laws relating to obscenity.

War Inc., by Seymour Melman

Vol 5 No 2 (2008)

Introducing AmeriQuests

Vol 1 No 1 (2004)