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Afro Orientalism

Bill V. Mullen

Publication Year: 2004

As early as 1914, in his pivotal essay “The World Problem of the Color Line,” W. E. B. Du Bois was charting a search for Afro-Asian solidarity and for an international anticolonialism. In Afro-Orientalism, Bill Mullen traces the tradition of revolutionary thought and writing developed by African American and Asian American artists and intellectuals in response to Du Bois’s challenge.

Afro-Orientalism unfolds here as a distinctive strand of cultural and political work that contests the longstanding, dominant discourse about race and nation first fully named in Edward Said’s Orientalism. Mullen tracks Afro-Asian engagement with U.S. imperialism—including writings by Richard Wright, Grace and James Boggs, Robert F. Williams, and Fred Ho—and companion struggles against racism and capitalism around the globe. To this end, he offers Afro-Orientalism as an antidote to essentialist, race-based, or narrow conceptions of ethnic studies and postcolonial studies, calling on scholars in these fields to re-imagine their critical enterprises as mutually constituting and politically interdependent.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v

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pp. vii-x

I owe this book to my students in the People’s Republic of China. This project was conceived in 1985 as they and I decoded James Baldwin’s “Fifth Avenue Uptown: A Letter from Harlem” at a moment when even a policy of open doors couldn’t shed light on that corner of the United...

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Introduction: Afro-Orientalism and Other Tales of Diaspora

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pp. xi-xliv

In his 1941 collaborative photodocumentary 12 Million Black Voices, a study of African American migration to Chicago, Richard Wright casts himself as a participant observer in this memorial description of a southern black peasantry he had not so very long ago left behind. Recalling...

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1. W. E. B. Du Bois’s Afro-Asian Fantasia

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pp. 1-41

W. E. B. Du Bois dedicated more writing to the subject of Asia than any African American public intellectual before or after him. He visited Asia twice, first in 1936 and again in 1959. The book he described as his “favorite,” Dark Princess, featured an Indian protagonist, Princess...

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2. The Limits of Being Outside: Richard Wright’s Anticolonial Turn

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pp. 43-71

Richard Wright was living in New York City when the Fifth Pan-African Congress convened in Manchester, England, in 1945. The congress was the first held since 1927. Its organizing impetus had come from several sources: the approach of the end of World War II and the urgent question...

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3. Transnational Correspondence: Robert F. Williams, Detroit, and the Bandung Era

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pp. 73-111

The special issue of Shijie Wenxue (World Literature) published in Beijing in September 1963 was dedicated to W. E. B. Du Bois. The lyric poet to China, twice a visitor there, had died in August on the eve of the March on Washington. Working quickly, the editors had compiled an extraordinary...

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4. “Philosophy Must Be Proletarian”: The Dialectical Humanism of Grace Lee and James Boggs

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pp. 113-162

In June 1940, the month that France fell to the Nazis, twenty-five-year-old Grace Lee, the daughter of first-generation Chinese immigrants in New York City, graduated with her PhD in philosophy from Bryn Mawr College. Lee’s graduate work had concentrated in Continental philosophy...

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5. Making Monkey Signify: Fred Ho’s Revolutionary Vision Quest

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pp. 163-204

Afro-Orientalism’s familial relationship to other discourses of liberation is revealed by its fondness for the revolutionary imagination. W. E. B. Du Bois’s midsummer night’s dream of a colored world’s revolution nods affectionately to Communism’s wedding to happy endings. Grace...

Appendix: Fred Ho Discography

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pp. 205-206


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pp. 207-227


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pp. 229-240

About the Author

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pp. 241

E-ISBN-13: 9781452935355
E-ISBN-10: 1452935351
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816637492

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2004

Edition: First edition

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Relations with Asian Americans.
  • African Americans -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • Asian Americans -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- African American authors.
  • Race relations in literature.
  • Racism in literature.
  • Imperialism in literature.
  • United States -- Race relations.
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