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Afro-Orientalism

2004
Author:

Bill V. Mullen

Afro-Orientalism

Reveals a century of political solidarity uniting Asians and African Americans

As early as 1914, W. E. B. Du Bois was charting a search for Afro-Asian solidarity. In Afro-Orientalism, Bill Mullen traces revolutionary thought developed by African American and Asian American artists and intellectuals in response to Du Bois’s challenge. Mullen offers Afro-Orientalism as an antidote to narrow conceptions of ethnic studies, calling on scholars to reimagine their critical enterprises as politically interdependent.

In Afro-Orientalism, Bill Mullen produces an alternative history to the postcolonial present that is rich with theoretical interest and political promise.

Amitava Kumar, author of Passport Photos and Bomba–London–New York

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.


Afro-Orientalism

Bill V. Mullen is professor of English at the University of Texas, San Antonio, as well as the author of Popular Fronts: Chicago and African-American Cultural Politics, 1935–1946, coeditor of Radical Revisions: Reading 1930s Culture, and the editor of Revolutionary Tales: African American Women’s Short Stories from the First Story to the Present.

Afro-Orientalism

In Afro-Orientalism, Bill Mullen produces an alternative history to the postcolonial present that is rich with theoretical interest and political promise.

Amitava Kumar, author of Passport Photos and Bomba–London–New York

An exciting breakthrough in thinking about racial formation in general and the specific Afro-Asiatic connection. With wide-ranging erudition and extraordinary vitality Mullen addresses cutting-edge concerns.

Alan Wald, author of Exiles from a Future Time: The Forging of the Mid-Twentieth-Century Literary Left

Mullen discusses both famous figures and the unjustly neglected. In doing so he offers rare insight into anti-Orientalism. Highly recommended.

Choice

Afro-Orientalism offers a penetrating look at the history and mutuality of struggle against Western imperialism by peoples of African and Asian descent. A complex and invigorating study.

American Literature

Mullen provides a solid foundation for ethnic scholars to re-imagine research on monocultures by embracing hybrid theorizing and polyculturalism.

MultiCultural Review

Afro-Orientalism comes at an important moment. Beyond academic debates, recent developments in China’s diplomatic and trade relations with Africa suggest that Afro-Orientalism will be a topic of discussion for some time to come. Mullen’s book reminds us of just how long Black Americans have been interested in this topic.

Reclaiming Black History

Afro-Orientalism

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Afro-Orientalism and Other Tales of Diaspora

1. W. E. B. Du Bois’s Afro-Asian Fantasia
2. The Limits of Being Outside: Richard Wright’s Anticolonial Turn
3. Transnational Correspondence: Robert F. Williams, Detroit, and the Bandung Era
4. “Philosophy Must Be Proletarian”: The Dialectical Humanism of Grace Lee and James Boggs
5. Making Monkey Signify: Fred Ho’s Revolutionary Vision Quest

Appendix: Fred Ho Discography

Notes
Index