Anti-Imperialist Modernism

Race and Transnational Radical Culture from the Great Depression to the Cold War
Benjamin Balthaser
A unique excavation of how U.S. cross-border, anti-imperialist movements shaped cultural modernism


Anti-Imperialist Modernism excavates how U.S. cross-border, multi-ethnic anti-imperialist movements at mid-century shaped what we understand as cultural modernism and the historical period of the Great Depression. The book demonstrates how U.S. multiethnic cultural movements, located in political parties, small journals, labor unions, and struggles for racial liberation, helped construct a common sense of international solidarity that critiqued ideas of nationalism and essentialized racial identity. The book thus moves beyond accounts that have tended to view the prewar “Popular Front” through tropes of national belonging or an abandonment of the cosmopolitanism of previous decades. Impressive archival research brings to light the ways in which a transnational vision of modernism and modernity was fashioned through anticolonial networks of North/South solidarity.

Chapters examine farmworker photographers in California’s Central Valley, a Nez Perce intellectual traveling to the Soviet Union, imaginations of the Haitian Revolution, the memory of the U.S.–Mexico War, and U.S. radical writers traveling to Cuba. The last chapter examines how the Cold War foreclosed these movements within a nationalist framework, when activists and intellectuals had to suppress the transnational nature of their movements, often rewriting the cultural past to conform to a patriotic narrative of national belonging.

“Wonderfully innovative and refreshing explorations of U.S. literary radicalism, covering little-known fiction, drama, film, journalism, and more . . . Balthaser combines meticulous research with sensitive analysis as well as moments of elegant and lucid prose. His insights can be surprising and disconcerting. With sobering observations, he demonstrates compelling new ways of understanding the Left and U.S. culture. There is simply no book like this.”
— Alan Wald, University of Michigan

Illustration: Toussaint at Ennery by Jacob Lawrence, 1989. © 2015, The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Benjamin Balthaser is Assistant Professor of English at Indiana University South Bend.

Praise / Awards

  • "Significantly expands our understanding of Popular Front radicalism beyond the US national scene."
    --Wendy Kozol, Critical Inquiry
  • "[Balthaser] assembles an impressive archive of political discourse and avant-garde aesthetics—it is a collection of texts entangled in and energized by a network of transnational connectivity extending from New York to Southern California and beyond to Cuba, Soviet Russia, and Mexico."
    --American Quarterly
  • "Balthaser argues compellingly for the anti-imperialist strain in the Popular Front modernism."
    --American Literary History
  • "Anti-Imperialist Modernism’s transnational archive, innovative approach, and political critique make it a welcome addition to scholarship in comparative ethnic studies, American cultural studies, and US literary studies."
    --Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, MELUS
  • "Assembling the work of left intellectuals, artists and activists into a story about interwar anti-imperialist solidarity, Balthaser’s work asks us to pay attention not just to what has been redacted or re-envisioned — but also to ask after what has gone unsaid, unmade and undone. "
    --Against the Current

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News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Benjamin Balthaser op-ed in (Link) | 8/28/2018

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 320pp.
  • 23 Illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11971-4

Add to Cart
  • $89.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90255-2

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  • Transnational American Studies, Modernism, Popular Front, Empire, Anti-Imperialism, Race and Ethnic Studies, Indigenous Studies, Social Movements, Multi-Ethnic Literature, Working Class Studies, Film Studies