Daniel’s posting on Cunard’s NEGRO ANTHOLOGY

Winkiel’s reading of Nancy Cunard’s Negro: An Anthology suggests that the anthology is less concerned with race and more a “document of war against imperialism and capitalism” (Winkiel 50). Looking at some of the surrealist and communist pieces, I want to look at how Cunard’s use of “montage” and her politics of anti-capitalism create the potential to unite two separate movements to create a more disruptive, single movement. .

The gaps that Winkiel focuses on in the text, the non-hierarchical juxtaposition (513) are read not as a problem within the anthology but as a moment that strengthens the Transnational politics. Winkiel’s reading of the montage of the text suggests the possibility of the text creating the potential for a kind of strategic essentialism. By creating a movement unified through its difference. Such a reading allows a politics that fights against the destabilizing effects of slavery and its diaspora of Africans, but does so without risking the movement’s diversity which serves as the movement’s strength. A strength in diversity potentially makes a movement’s cohesion difficult, but Will Herberg’s “Marxism and the American Negro” suggests that class be one issue the movement can rally behind. Herberg’s Marxist reading of the position of the “American Negro” suggests that democracy will fail to produce a true liberating movement of race, and socialism is the best alternative for racial emancipation (Herberg, 134). It may be important to note preceding this article is a narrative interruption that reminds the reader of Nancy Cunard’s limited understanding of Marxism, and quotes her as saying she is more of an Anarchist. While Cunard’s communist influence may be more of a fashion statement, the communist influence by anti-imperialism makes it a necessary component to take her politics to the Transnational level. George Sadoul’s contribution of “Sambo Without Tears” makes this clear.

Sadoul’s article criticizes imperialist cartoons within French Bourgeoisie magazines published for children (yes, children, which makes the cartoons even more unsettling). Sadoul uses Lenin’s claim that the revolt of the proletariat is at one with the struggle of the “negro” (350-1), and his essay serves as an international counterpart to Herberg’s domestic, American politics. Sadoul uses the children cartoons to expose how the images project a savage, immoral, drunkard identity for the “negro” that justify colonial rule. He ends for a cry for workers across racial boundaries unite to connect their struggles.

The note that discusses Cunard’s preference for Anarchism over the dogmatic nature of Marxism suggests that these politics are guided by a more general anti-capitalism/imperialism that Wienkel supports. Wienkel’s discussion of the importance of montage suggests this notion, and what Cunard puts together is less a hierarchical, systematic critique of capitalism/imperialism, but a more de-centered and plural attack. Wienkel reads this move as “recontextualizing white avant-gardist and socialist rupture within an African and African-diasporic modernity”, and this makes me think of the surrealist manifesto within the anthology that attempts to redefine (France’s) colonial wars as civil wars. Bracketing the questions of internal/external that I think can be explored here through (trans)national politics, I think this creates an exciting possible connection between domestic and international politics.

Of course, the limits of Cunard’s politics are clearly exposed by the anthologies critics and its history. The anthology fails to remain historically significant, and Wienkel confirms its existence on the margins through her Walter Benjamin metaphor. Further, the romanticization and fetishaztion discussed in class continue to trouble the anthologies authenticity, but the anthologies ability to create a representation of a “negro” unity transcending nationality (and the racial author—all the pieces of the anthology read for this blog are written by Whites) creates a political possibility that counters the diasporic nature of black culture. The different racial “migrations” (as Helberg calls them, some word choice that may provide a critical distance by suggesting a sociologists perspective, but still rather troubling language) help repress a racial movements effectiveness and power. Cunard’s transnational politics as Wienkel calls them, though still very problematic, offer a good starting point to understanding how social movements can strategically be made up of difference. Instead of viewing such differences as a problem, Wienkel views them as potential symptoms rather than flaws (508). I think that such a reading of the gaps when coupled with the Marxist critiques of class in the anthology offer the potential for a political reading that helps cope with the anthologies problematic cosmopolitanism.

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