Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Black Notes on Asia: Composite Figurations of Asia in the African American Transcultural Imagination, 1923-2013
by Arimitsu, Michio, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2014, 305; 3611509
Abstract (Summary)

Black Notes on Asia: Composite Figurations of Asia in the African American Transcultural Imagination, 1923-2013 sheds new light on the hitherto neglected engagements of African American writers and thinkers with various literary, cultural, and artistic traditions of Asia. Starting with a reevaluation of Lewis G. Alexander's transcultural remaking of haiku in 1923, this dissertation interrogates and revises the familiar interracial (read as "black-white") terms of the African American struggle for freedom and equality. While critics have long taken for granted these terms as the sine qua non of the African American literary imagination and practice, this dissertation demonstrates how authors like Alexander defied not only the implicit dichotomy of black-and-white but also the critical bias that represents African American literature as a nationally segregated tradition distinctly cut off from cultural sources beyond the border of the United States and made legible only within its narrowly racialized and racializing contexts. More specifically, Black Notes on Asia argues that the ruling conceptions of the so-called "Harlem Renaissance in black and white" and the reductive understanding of the Black Arts Movement as an uncomplicated, propagandistic expression of black nationalism, fail to pay due attention to their underlying multiracial/multicultural/transnational aesthetics and perspectives. In order to understand the full complexity and heterogeneity of the African American imagination from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present, it is necessary to account for cultural ebbs and flows, echoes and reverberations, beyond the United States, Europe and Africa, to include Asia. Rediscovering the hitherto overlooked traces and reflections of Asia within the African American imagination, this dissertation argues that Asia has provided numerous African American authors and intellectuals, canonized as well as forgotten, with additional or alternative cultural resources that liberated them from, or at least helped them destabilize, what they considered as the constraining racial and nationalist discourse of the United States.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sollors, Werner, Jeyifo, Biodun
Commitee: Carpio, Glenda, Thornber, Karen
School: Harvard University
Department: African and African American Studies
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 75/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Comparative literature, African American Studies, American literature
Keywords: Black arts movement, Cosmopolitanism, Haiku, The harlem renaissance, Transnationalism, World literature
Publication Number: 3611509
ISBN: 978-1-303-72391-9
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