Editorial Statement: Pink
The OED lists some nine nominal uses of pink, almost all meaning small, young, minor, inferior, ornamental, or insignificant. A pink is a small sailing vessel; a minor gunshot wound; a decorative trimming-think of our pinkies, the smallest and least useful of our fingers. Pink also means adulterated or off-color-a pink-yellow or a pink-brown is a watered-down, "evanescent," translucent shade; a rosé wine is neither robust and meaty like a red, nor subtle and clarifying like a white, but somewhere in between and usually cloyingly sweet (reviewing wines, the London Times wrote in 2003 of "cheap, sweet, nasty Portuguese pinks.") From this sense of adulterated, watered down, off-color, we derive our American political designation "pinko," a watered-down communist, an unserious "red," more a figure to ridicule than a live political threat.
That said, the OED reveals that pink can also be a superlative. The best, the most excellent state of health is called "being in the pink," while good humor leaves us tickled pink. Pink was for long associated with the British Empire on maps (as we discuss with Linda Colley in Innovations), and while this is not necessarily superlative, the color does go deep in the British social imaginary, as a signifier of everything that is stately, royal, and pleasant about the sceptered isle-or, if not the color, at least the word (a "pink" refers to a scarlet jacket worn by fox hunters, a sense possibly derived from the name of the tailor, Thomas Pink, supposed to have devised this costume, and still a name associated with the best in men's haberdashery).
In European art, pink is flesh, voluptuousness, sensuality: the pale, colorless pink verges over into the bold, shocking hue of an exposed nipple. And in European politics, pink can mark the outcast, the abject, as in wearing the pink triangle, used in the Nazi period to identify and exclude homosexuals. Depending on its deployment, then, pink is either insipid or literally electrifying.
In American colloquial usage, pink signifies the in-between, the wishy-washy, the indeterminate, the color that always comes out wrong. It seems permanently linked to the secondary term in hierarchically ranked semantic pairs. Pink means superannuation and devaluation, as in "receiving a pink slip" when fired from your job. Feminized and usually poorly-paid occupations in health care and the garment industries, for example, are pursued by pink-collar workers. But this association between femininity, lack of value, softness, and insignificance is, as many of our contributors have pointed out, thoroughly ideological and appears to be a nineteenth-century invention. Mary Ann Case, in our Forum, notes that in medieval humors women were cold and wet, and thus more likely to be associated with blue, whereas men were hot and dry, hence closer to pink. Regardless, this association runs through our culture and, as Diane Ruble and her collaborators write, in *Innovations, is one of the first things little girls learn about their gender.
For this issue, we started with the idea of culture--with both a large and a small "c"--the arts, movies, gender, sexuality, representation, taste. Everything, that is, usually relegated to the back pages of the serious political and cultural journals, to section E or worse of our daily newspapers. Pink was the obvious choice as a color to signify all these many devalued objects of inquiry and reflection; but then by asking different disciplines to think pink the color took on a more nuanced life.
Much surprise awaits the reader in this issue.
In the Interview, Paul Muldoon, the Howard Clark '21 University Professor of the Humanities and 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, talks at length about poetry's audience, money, and mourning, and he describes his poem, "Pink Spotted Torso", a piece that refers to an etching that was made by a close friend who died of breast cancer. You'll find the etching in Interview.
Our discussions culminated in a Forum, which we held as a public event at the Princeton Art Museum and which the Museum co-hosted. Four scholars-Carolyn Harris, Calvin Brown, Nigel Smith, Mary Ann Case-came together to discuss two works of art, Warhol's "Blue Marilyn" and a propaganda poster featuring Mao by the Old Labor Revolutionary Team of the Vehicle Repair Section in Changxindian District from China's Cultural Revolution, amidst a festive atmosphere with pink champagne and pink cupcakes. Panelists addressed the aesthetics of totalitarianism, death and eroticism, celebrity culture and its victims, and more.
In Comptes Rendus, you will find discussions of Atatürk and the psychology of a great national leader with Near Eastern scholar Norman Itzkowitz; of films, art, and seriousness with professor of religion, Jeff Stout; and of the life of pink in fashion with fashion designer Malan Breton.
In Innovations, you will read about the British Empire and the spread of pink on its maps with the historian Linda Colley; and about gender identity and new theories in developmental psychology with Diane Ruble.
Ultimately, we hope to have turned pink inside out and to have demonstrated that it is more than an aesthetic error, the color that underpants come out with when you've made a mistake in the laundry. Along the way, we question some of our presuppositions about pink, culture, Culture, and the role of knowledge in its creation.