Paris, Capital of the Black Atlantic
Literature, Modernity, and Diaspora
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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...gratitude to Suzanne Flinchbaugh, who guided the book through production at the Johns Hopkins University Press and enthusiastically supported its expansion. We also thank the anonymous reader of the manuscript for advice and encouragement. We would also like to thank Randall Burkett, the staff at Emory University’s Special Collections, and the Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory for their resources and...
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...a wave of riots broke out in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, a largely Arab and African working-class neighborhood. Sparked by the death of two teenage boys, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, who were electrocuted after climbing into a power substation as they allegedly hid from police, the riots broke out on the night of October 27, 2005. Two days earlier, then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy had incited rage with his public statement that crime-ridden suburban...
CHAPTER 1 Cultural Artifacts and the Narrative of History: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Exhibiting of Culture at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle
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...In much of his work from the last decade of the nineteenth century through the first half of the twentieth, W. E. B. Du Bois’s major intellectual thrust was the narrating of American history in such a way that the African American was transformed in the popular imagination from historical victim to historical actor. At the same time, Du Bois was alive to the possibilities present in imagining the African American as not simply an American citizen...
CHAPTER 2 “The Only Real White Democracy” and the Language of Liberation: The Great War, France, and African American Culture in the 1920s
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...Richard Wright’s famous—and famously lengthy—list of taboos for interracial conversation in 1920s Tennessee exhibits much of his talent for grim humor on the subject of white southern racial prejudice. It is also a revealing litany of the totems and shibboleths around which African American struggles for social, material, and cultural inclusion were enacted in the first half of the...
CHAPTER 3 “No One, I Am Sure, Is Ever Homesick in Paris”: Jessie Fauset’s French Imaginary
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...Paris in 1925 witnessed several events that have become iconic moments in conventional histories of modernism: Josephine Baker arrived in Paris with the Revue Nègre; Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald met for the first time in the Ritz Hotel bar; the International Exhibition of Arts Décoratifs showed the world what modern looked like; and Picasso painted his...
CHAPTER 4 Writing Home: Comparative Black Modernism and Form in Jean Toomer and Aimé Césaire
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...While there is no evidence of an actual encounter between the enigmatic American author Jean Toomer and Martinican poetstatesman Aimé Césaire, the many points of convergence between their works illustrate the ways in which interwar African diasporic intellectual communities developed in print as well as in person. The role of Paris in this multilayered development is key in that the French capital not only hosted those diasporic...
CHAPTER 5 Embodied Fictions, Melancholy Migrations: Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Celebrity
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...site that permits Helga’s imagination to run free. There she explores the city and meets new people in her family’s circle of artist friends. Dissatisfied with New York, Helga had set sail for Denmark’s capital. Larsen describes Helga’s feelings during the trip, “even the two rough days found her on deck, reveling like a released bird in her returned feelings of happiness and freedom, that blessed...
Postwar Paris and the Politics of Literature
CHAPTER 6 Assuming the Position: Fugitivity and Futurity in the Work of Chester Himes
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...The alcohol consumed by the three writers that evening loosens the boundaries of a hazardous zone of dense interpersonal tension, already laced by an ancient intertwining of fiction’s force and ideology’s racialist insistence. The primary fabric of this tension is a ruptural, sarcastic word-play that, without drink, might have remained soberly submerged, repressed within a public sphere essentially tone-deaf to the agonistic gestures of an inchoate, expatriate...
CHAPTER 7 “One Is Mysteriously Shipwrecked Forever, in the Great New World”: James Baldwin from New York to Paris
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...moment that propelled him to leave the sanctity of Paris in order to participate in the civil rights movement. In the fall of 1956 Baldwin covered the first International Congress of Black Writers and Artists at the Sorbonne. “One bright afternoon,” Baldwin recalls, he was “meandering up the Boulevard St.-Germain on the way to lunch,” accompanied by Richard Wright and other unnamed...
CHAPTER 8 Making Culture Capital: Présence Africaine and Diasporic Modernity in Post–World War II Paris
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...Out of the ashes of World War II, Moscow and Washington, D.C., emerged with competing claims to be the economic, political, and military capitals of the world, while another world city, Paris, struggled to rebuild itself after the war’s destruction. Its power diminished, Paris clung desperately to its status as both the cultural capital of the world and the imperial capital of a far-flung colonial empire. As the historian Robert Gildea notes, “possession...
CHAPTER 9 Richard Wright’s “Island of Hallucination” and the Gibson Affair
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...The Gibson Affair was a scandal that rocked the African American community in the Paris of late 1957 and provoked tremors that continued long after. As the affair bears my name, I must accept or at least share responsibility; however, this is neither a confession nor an apology. This is an attempt to provide clarification of the mystery that still surrounds this incident, which some believe to have destroyed or diminished a certain cozy easiness of...
CHAPTER 10 Entering the Politics of the Outside: Richard Wright’s Critique of Marxism and Existentialism
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...Richard Wright issued an invitation to the Western world to enter a political terrain that it has historically and ideologically foreclosed, in one way or another, as outside politics. His invitation went unheeded. The West today, if not the world, can only hope that such an invitation will be extended once again, but will we know how to read the invitation if and when it arrives? Do we even have the...
From Négritude to Migritude
CHAPTER 11 René, Louis, and Léopold: Senghorian Négritude as a Black Humanism
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...I had the great privilege of working with Léopold Senghor— through correspondence, at least—in 1963, while I was doing research for a biography of Richard Wright, and between 1980 and 1982, when we served on the thesis defense committee for Martin Steins’s dissertation on the origins of Négritude. I was struck, on this second occasion in particular, by how he...
CHAPTER 12 Nos Ancêtres, les Diallobés: Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s Ambiguous Adventure and the Paradoxes of Islamic Négritude
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...Though famously home to a variety of diasporic black writers, musicians, and artists, Paris is significant to Black Atlantic thought in an institutional, ideological sense as the birthplace in the 1930s of Négritude. As an aesthetic movement, Négritude was the first effort by black artists, primarily poets, to create an aesthetic that was both explicitly black, pan-African, and at the same time...
CHAPTER 13 Redefining Paris: Transmodernity and Francophone African Migritude Fiction
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...serves as the epigraph to this essay. The first relates to the universally acclaimed status of early-twentieth-century Paris as the crucible of black intellection, a site for the articulation of polyvalent cultural expressions in all areas of the arts; the second, a corollary of the first, underscores the geographical position of the French capital at the heart of a centripetal nexus that consolidated...
CHAPTER 14 Interurban Paris: Alain Mabanckou’s Invisible Cities
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...In March 2007, Alain Mabanckou was one of 44 writers to sign a manifesto published in the French newspaper Le Monde, “Pour une ‘littérature-monde’ en français” (For a “world literature” in French), which called for a rethinking of the field of Francophone literary studies and highlighted Mabanckou’s preoccupation with how the shifting categories of geography and language...
Afterword: Europhilia, Francophilia, Negrophilia in the Making of Modernism
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...That the prickly “impresario of Pan-Africanism” W. E. B. Du Bois’s oft-cited formulation of the Negro as a problem and race as the enduring quandary of the twentieth century, was so clearly expressed in geopolitical terms is the stuff that has been relegated for the most part to biographical tomes (Lewis 566). And further...
List of Contributors
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Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2013