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Brent Hayes Edwards. The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism
2003, Harvard University Press
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, Contributed by: Emma Johnson
Publisher’s Note: A pathbreaking work of scholarship that will reshape our understanding of the Harlem Renaissance, The Practice of Diaspora revisits black transnational culture in the 1920s and 1930s, paying particular attention to links between intellectuals in New York and their Francophone counterparts in Paris. Brent Edwards suggests that diaspora is less a historical condition than a set of practices: the claims, correspondences, and collaborations through which black intellectuals pursue a variety of international alliances. Edwards elucidates the workings of diaspora by tracking the wealth of black transnational print culture between the world wars, exploring the connections and exchanges among New York–based publications (such as Opportunity, The Negro World, and The Crisis) and newspapers in Paris (such as Les Continents, La Voix des Nègres, and L’Etudiant Noir). In reading a remarkably diverse archive—the works of writers and editors from Langston Hughes, René Maran, and Claude McKay to Paulette Nardal, Alain Locke, W.E.B. Du Bois, George Padmore, and Tiemoko Garan Kouyaté—The Practice of Diaspora takes account of the highly divergent ways of imagining race beyond the barriers of nation and language. In doing so, it reveals the importance of translation, arguing that the politics of diaspora are legible above all in efforts at negotiating difference among populations of African descent throughout the world.

Comment: Discusses the practices of black diaspora in the 1920s and 1930s in a transnational context. Requires some prior knowledge (more suitable for graduate students) but offers a good overview of topics and key figures in black internationalism. Utilizes a wide range of historical sources and methods.

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Celeste Day Moore. Soundscapes of Liberation. African American Music in Postwar France
2021, Duke University Press
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Publisher’s Note: In Soundscapes of Liberation, Celeste Day Moore traces the popularization of African American music in postwar France, where it signaled new forms of power and protest. Moore surveys a wide range of musical genres, soundscapes, and media: the US military's wartime records and radio programs; the French record industry's catalogs of blues, jazz, and R&B recordings; the translations of jazz memoirs; a provincial choir specializing in spirituals; and US State Department-produced radio programs that broadcast jazz and gospel across the French empire. In each of these contexts, individual intermediaries such as educators, producers, writers, and radio deejays imbued African American music with new meaning, value, and political power. Their work resonated among diverse Francophone audiences and transformed the lives and labor of many African American musicians, who found financial and personal success as well as discrimination in France. By showing how the popularity of African American music was intertwined with contemporary structures of racism and imperialism, Moore demonstrates this music's centrality to postwar France and the convergence of decolonization, the expanding globalized economy, the Cold War, and worldwide liberation movements.

Comment: Useful for students of history interested in sound production and its relation to Black Internationalism. Can be used as an introduction into new methods and sources. Prior knowledge of Black Internationalism is recommended but not essential if the focus is on methods.

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Jennifer Anne Boittin. Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Anti-Imperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris
2010, University of Nebraska Press
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Publisher’s Note: World War I gave colonial migrants and French women unprecedented access to the workplaces and nightlife of Paris. After the war they were expected to return without protest to their homes—either overseas or metropolitan. Neither group, however, was willing to be discarded. Between the world wars, the mesmerizing capital of France’s colonial empire attracted denizens from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Paris became not merely their home but also a site for political engagement. Colonial Metropolis tells the story of the interactions and connections of these black colonial migrants and white feminists in the social, cultural, and political world of interwar Paris. It explores why and how both were denied certain rights, such as the vote, how they suffered from sensationalist depictions in popular culture, and how they pursued parity in ways that were often interpreted as politically subversive.

Comment: This book uses a wide variety of sources and methods to discuss the social, political, and cultural history of the French Empire. Prior but limited knowledge of interwar Paris is necessary. Can be used as both an introduction to themes of colonial empire and race and an introduction to new methods of archival research.

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