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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“The whole world is our country”: Immigration and anarchism in the United States, 1885–1940
by Zimmer, Kenyon, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2010, 540; 3435561
Abstract (Summary)

From the 1880s through the 1940s tens of thousands of anarchists were active in the United States, the overwhelming majority of them first- and second-generation immigrants. But most were not yet devotees of the anarchist cause when they arrived on American shores. Instead, a clear link existed between migration and the embrace of anarchist ideology. This study asks how and why thousands of migrants became anarchists, and how their embrace of an anti-nationalist and cosmopolitan ideology shaped their identities, experiences and actions.

Utilizing anarchist publications, government surveillance files, and archival materials, it focuses on Eastern European Jews and Italians—the two largest segments of the anarchist movement by the turn of the century—and the development of anarchism among these groups in three important centers of American anarchism: New York's Lower East Side, Paterson, New Jersey, and San Francisco. It then follows the changing fortunes of the movement in the face of war, the Russian Revolution, the First Red Scare, and the birth of communism and fascism, and ends with an examination of immigrant American anarchist participation in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, and that conflict's dramatic impact on the movement in the United States.

This study argues that it was American conditions that usually made immigrants into anarchists, rather than European ones, inextricably linking the histories of migration and American anarchism. Nevertheless, the phenomenon of post-migration radicalization defies categorization within most historiographical paradigms of European immigration that focus on the construction of “hyphenated” American identities or “hybrid” transnational ones. Anarchists chose an alternative: they embraced an ideology that opposed both Americanization and Old World nationalisms, severing their attachments to their states of origin while willfully resisting assimilation into their host society. They formulated a radical cosmopolitan outlook and identity that embraced diversity, rejected hierarchies, and extended solidarity across national, ethnic, and racial divides. This cosmopolitanism was ultimately unable to withstand the onslaught of competing nationalisms ranging from Americanism to fascism to Zionism, but it stands as an important example of a transnational collective identity delinked from nationalism, the nation-state and racial hierarchies.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Oestreicher, Richard
School: University of Pittsburgh
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 72/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Labor economics, Ethnic studies, Judaic studies
Keywords: Anarchism, Cosmopolitanism, Immigration, Italian, Jews
Publication Number: 3435561
ISBN: 978-1-124-34128-6
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