Anti-Imperialist Modernism: Race and Transnational Radical by Benjamin Balthaser

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By Benjamin Balthaser

Anti-Imperialist Modernism excavates how U.S. cross-border, multi-ethnic anti-imperialist pursuits at mid-century formed what we comprehend as cultural modernism and the historic interval of the good melancholy. The ebook demonstrates how U.S. multiethnic cultural activities, positioned in political events, small journals, hard work unions, and struggles for racial liberation, helped build a typical feel of overseas harmony that critiqued rules of nationalism and essentialized racial id. The publication therefore strikes past debts that experience tended to view the pre-war “Popular entrance” via tropes of nationwide belonging or an abandonment of the cosmopolitanism of prior many years. notable archival examine brings to gentle the ways that a transnational imaginative and prescient of modernism and modernity was once shaped via anti-colonial networks of North/South harmony. Chapters study farmworker photographers in California’s valuable valley, a Nez Perce highbrow touring to the Soviet Union, imaginations of the Haitian Revolution, the reminiscence of the U.S.–Mexico struggle, and U.S. radical writers touring to Cuba. The final bankruptcy examines how the chilly battle foreclosed those activities inside of a nationalist framework, while activists and intellectuals needed to suppress the transnational nature in their routine, usually rewriting the cultural previous to comply to a patriotic narrative of nationwide belonging.

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That Cuba was a major site of the cultural imaginary of the 1930s is simply not available within the currently circulating texts from the 1930s. And yet the “darling of the Left” in the 1930s, Clifford Odets, visited Cuba as part of a delegation of activists, labor officials, and church groups; authored a pamphlet with well-­known journalist Carleton Beals; and went on a speaking tour with ACLU president Roger Baldwin and poet Archibald MacLeish after his arrest by Cuban authorities, all of which became the basis for an unpublished play he worked on from 1936 to 1938.

Fused with James’s sensational style, Jacobins reorients modernity within an anti-­imperialist modernism, that is, rewrites the modern world racially and spatially, locating the revolutionary future in the global South. In much the same way, Archie Phinney’s and Langston Hughes’s travels to the Soviet Union looked east to find another model for modernity not based on the racial hierarchies of the West, locating modernity within a revolutionary socialist project. 84 Arise, the Transnational Working Class: The Making of an Anti-­Imperialist Working-­Class Culture The idea of an international working class is, of course, not new.

What is thus significant is the extent to which realism is posed here as a genre of national belonging. The Author poses his intimate knowledge of New York working-­class life—­people who have bosses and eat in cafeterias—­ This Land Is My Land • 41 against “poetic plays” of worlds he doesn’t know: the other nations of Sweden, Russia, and Cuba. Realism, argues the Author, is a national project, one based on the imaginary community of a coherent people who share a set of culturally specific values, habits, and language that are not easily translatable without site-­specific knowledge.

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