We are excited that the latest issue of the Journal of Transnational American Studies includes work by David Bradley, novelist and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Civil Rights in America, as well as by several historians such as Teishan A. Latner on the FBI as unwitting archivist of Cuba-solidarity activism, Westenley Alcenat on the understudied topic of African American emigration in the revolutionary Atlantic, Greg Robinson on the soft power diplomacy of Eleanor Roosevelt; as well as articles by Christen Mucher on the representative power of nineteenth-century illustrations that came to stand in for the Indigenous objects they depicted in the same moment that they obscured other, material and social, forms of Indigenous dispossession; Eric D. Larson on how Puerto Rican activists in Boston advanced the cause of independence for Puerto Rico while also lending the struggle in Puerto Rico an American slant; Begoña Simal-González on the aporia of transnational American studies; José Liste-Noya’s exploration of the affiliations between transnationalism and the transglobal imaginary found in the science fiction of Samuel R. Delany; a JTAS special forum on American literature and globalization; as well as excerpts from recent books by Takayuki Tatsumi, Aiko Takeuchi-Demirci, Claudia Sadowski-Smith, Ana Raquel Minian, and others. Table of contents and abstracts below; journal here: https://escholarship.org/uc/acgcc_jtas/9/1
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Table of Contents | JTAS 9.1
Note from the Editor-in-Chief | Nina Morgan
Introduction by Issue Editors | Nina Morgan and Sabine Kim
Collecting Native America: John Lloyd Stephens and the Rhetoric of Archaeological Value
Christen Mucher (Smith College)
‘to transplant in alien soil’: Race, Nation, Citizenship, and the Idea of Emigration in the Revolutionary Atlantic
Westenley Alcenat (Fordham University)
Anticolonial Anti-Intervention: Puerto Rican Independentismo and the US ‘Anti-Intervention’ Left in
Eric D. Larson (University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth)
‘Agrarians or Anarchists?’: Cuba Solidarity, State Surveillance, and the FBI as Biographer and Archivist
Teishan A. Latner (Thomas Jefferson University)
Foreign Means to Local Ends: Bialik, Emerson, and the Uses of America in 1920s Palestine
Nir Evron (Tel Aviv University)
Reprise Editor’s Note | Nina Morgan
“Benjamin Rush’s Travels Towards Peace”
Special Forum: Disrupting Globalization
Special Forum | Begoña Simal-González and José Liste-Noya
Introduction: Disrupting Globalization—The Transnational and American Literature
Begoña Simal-González (Universidade da Coruña)
Translational Form in Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being
Claire Gullander-Drolet (Brown University)
Anthologizing ‘Little Calibans’: Surplus in Junot Díaz’s Linked Stories
Janet Zong York (Harvard University)
Mapping the Transnational in Contemporary Native American Fiction: Silko and Welch
Lori Merish (Georgetown University)
Exotic Arabs and American Anxiety: Representations of Culinary Tourism in Diana Abu-Jaber’s Crescent
Mandala White (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)
Postethnicity and Antiglobalization in Chicana/o Science Fiction: Hogan’s Smoking Mirror Blues, and Sánchez and Pita’s Lunar Braceros 2125-214
Elsa del Campo Ramírez (University of Nebrija)
Being True to the trans-: Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand and the Transglobal Imagination
José Liste- Noya (Universidade da Coruña)
Forward Editor’s Note | Greg Robinson
Karen M. Inouye, The Long Afterlife of Japanese American Incarceration (Stanford University Press, 2016)
Rajender Kaur, India in the American Imaginary, 1780s–1880s (Palgrave, 2017)
Ana Raquel Minian, Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration (Harvard University Press, 2018)
Phuong Tran Nguyen, Becoming Refugee American: The Politics of Rescue in Little Saigon (University of Illinois Press, 2017)
Rachel Pistol, Internment During the Second World War (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017)
Greg Robinson, “Eleanor Roosevelt in Montreal: Human Rights and Internationalism in World War II” (Bulletin d’histoire politique, 2018)
Claudia Sadowski-Smith, The New Immigrant Whiteness: Race, Neoliberalism, and Post-Soviet Migration to the United States (New York University Press, 2018)
Aiko Takeuchi-Demirci, Contraceptive Diplomacy: Reproductive Politics and Imperial Ambitions in the United States and Japan (Stanford University Press, 2018)
Takayuki Tatsumi, “Origins of Originality: Poe—Hawthorne—Noguchi,” from Young Americans in Literature: The Post-Romantic Turn in the Age of Poe, Hawthorne and Melville (Tokyo: Sairyusha, 2018)
‘to transplant in alien soil’: Race, Nation, Citizenship, and the Idea of Emigration in the Revolutionary Atlantic
The emigration of African Americans to Haiti throughout the nineteenth century was influenced by the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). Looking beyond this influence as mere legacy, this article proposes that scholars begin to interrogate the relationship that developed between African American Black Nationalists and Haitian allies. The article explores whether the emigration by African Americans to postrevolutionary Haiti during the nineteenth century was a political rejection of the US. Or was it an opportunity to explore the possibilities of democratic citizenship—the right to have rights—that only Haiti had to offer, in the hope of promoting genuine democracy in the United States, as well? Why, in spite of their insistence that they, too, were Americans, did some African Americans accept the invitation by Haitian revolutionaries to board a ship to the island republic? Black emigration, I argue, was not born of racial solidarity. Rather, it was the political consequence of racial exclusion.
Foreign Means to Local Ends: Emerson, Bialik and the Uses of America in 1920s Palestine | Nir Evron
In 1926, Haim Nachman Bialik, the premier poet and leading intellectual light of the Zionist movement, sailed for New York on a five-month-long fundraising mission on behalf of the yishuv, the pre-statehood Jewish settlement in Palestine. After his return, the poet gave a long speech in Tel Aviv, recounting his impressions of the United States before an audience of thousands. The America that Bialik presented to his listeners, this essay begins by arguing, should be read as tissue of widely circulating tropes and mythemes, which the poet had absorbed during his formative years in Europe as well as in the course of his 1926 tour. The essay then proceeds to discuss the uses to which the poet puts this (largely borrowed) narrative of American difference, focusing in particular on Bialik’s ambivalent response to the futural (largely Emersonian) ethos to which he returns time and again in his speech, and which he seems to simultaneously endorse and reject. The main part of the essay’s argument is devoted to making sense of this ambivalence, which I attribute to the diverging “temporal imaginaries” that underwrite Zionist and American exceptionalisms.
Anticolonial Anti-Intervention: Puerto Rican Independentismo and the U.S. ‘Anti-Intervention’ Left in Reagan-era Boston
Eric D. Larson
Scholars of the post-1968 transnational left have increasingly criticized liberal frameworks that suggest that transnational politics fundamentally revolve around solidarity relationships between full citizens of distinct nation-states. The literature on the movements that opposed US military and political intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean in the 1970s and 1980s has also shifted to better illuminate the fundamental roles migrants, refugees, politically targeted activists, and minoritized groups have played in contesting US intervention, particularly in Central America. This article adds a layer to that discussion by examining how diasporic Puerto Rican activists helped galvanize anti-intervention movements in Boston in the 1980s. It shows how El Colectivo Puertorriqueño de Boston (the Puerto Rican Collective of Boston) developed what I call a politics of “anticolonial anti-intervention” that directly related empire “over there” to racialized colonialism in the urban US. They grappled with what it meant to live in a colonial diaspora as they helped build anti-intervention organizing in Boston. They centered the demand for Puerto Rican independence yet linked it to their resistance to US intervention elsewhere in Latin America and the Caribbean. They recalibrated independentista visions of self-rule, including through an updated version of community control, in the Reagan era. In doing so they challenged the implicitly white politics of rescue, aid, and deracialized Marxism that prevailed in much of Boston’s anti-intervention movement.
‘Agrarians or Anarchists?’: Cuba Solidarity, State Surveillance, and the FBI as Biographer and Archivist | Teishan A. Latner
In the late 1960s, as thousands of Americans traveled to Cuba to evaluate the nation’s evolving revolutionary process, the FBI launched a surveillance campaign designed to prove that travel to the communist island by US citizens represented a threat to national security. Focusing on the FBI’s investigation of the Venceremos Brigade, a radical humanitarian organization that sent delegations of Americans to Cuba as volunteers for agricultural and construction projects, this article evaluates the FBI’s claims that Cuba was indoctrinating leftwing Americans with revolutionary theory and training them in guerrilla warfare. But while state surveillance was intended to criminalize the Venceremos Brigade in legal terms and demonize it within the popular imaginary, it failed to reveal any prosecutable evidence of criminality. Instead, the FBI’s efforts inadvertently transformed it into the group’s clandestine biographer, as agents produced a substantial archive of print material on the group. Amassing thousands of pages of surveillance, including rare pamphlets and ephemera, the FBI’s unofficial archive unexpectedly confirmed the liberatory and humanist aspirations of the Brigade. Although there is a dearth of scholarship on the Venceremos Brigade, the longest-lived Cuba solidarity organization in the world, the FBI’s files remain the most extensive archive on the group ever produced, surpassing any university’s holdings. Files on the Venceremos Brigade illustrate the manner in which counternarratives can surface even within the body of the state’s archives on grassroots political movements, narratives that are potent enough to challenge the power of the state’s evidence deployed against them.
Collecting Native America: John Lloyd Stephens and the Rhetoric of Archaeological Value | Christen Mucher
This article focuses on the representations of Maya statues made by archaeologist–explorer John Lloyd Stephens and his artistic collaborator Frederick Catherwood in the 1840s. While Stephens’s and Catherwood’s trips to Central America, Mexico, and the Yucatán were meant to provide material objects for a Pan-American museum of Native American “antiquities,” the statues themselves were never exhibited to the public. Nonetheless, the visual and literary representations of the Maya “idols” circulating across North and Central America as well as Europe incited international interest and dramatically increased similar statues’ monetary value. Stephens’s valuation of Indigenous objects as possessable historical relics rested on the transformation of Indigenous bodies into laborers and Indigenous homelands into saleable property; their representation as mystical “idols” merely concealed this transformation. What is more, the historical and monetary value of the relics collected by Stephens was eventually surpassed by their textual reproductions. These representations—rather than the artifacts or communities behind them—set a persistent pattern for the study and evaluation of Native American “culture” as demonstrated by the textual afterlives of Stephens’s work.
Special Forum Abstracts
Postethnicity and Antiglobalization in Chicana/o Science Fiction: Ernest Hogan’s Smoking Mirror Blues, and Rosaura Sánchez and Beatrice Pita’s Lunar Braceros 2125-2148 | Elsa del Campo Ramírez
During the past decades, science fiction has evidenced an often-unacknowledged problematic brought to the forefront by advocates of alter-globalization: the future is (still) predominantly white, masculine, and globally built on indigenous exploitation. In the era of multinational capitalism, the trend towards an apparent postnationalism paradoxically risks leading towards what Lysa Rivera has described as a “Fourth World [which] promotes the ‘multiplication of frontiers and the smashing apart of nations’ and indigenous communities.” Simultaneously, the increase of ethnic transnational conflicts in a globalized world has prompted the pursuit of a utopian postethnic future that seeks social harmony but seems to be spiraling into the erosion of the American ethnic paradigm through the configuration of nonspecific and inconsistent ethnic categories, derived from the “lumping of all indigenous people into one category,” as Linda Alcoff claims. This paper aims at exploring the Chicana/o cultural and ethnic identity in the context of multinational capitalism through its articulation and dissolution in the realm of science fiction, where issues such as postethnicity and its intricate connection with corporate globalization are discussed. The study will focus on the analysis of two novels: Smoking Mirror Blues (2001), by Ernest Hogan, and one instance of what Catherine Ramírez has termed ‘Chicanafuturism,’ Lunar Braceros 2125-2148 (2009), by Rosaura Sánchez and Beatrice Pita.
Translational Form in Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being | Claire Gullander-Drolet
Through a close reading of the tropes of interlingual and historical translation in Ruth Ozeki’s 2013 novel, A Tale for the Time Being, this essay argues that an attention to forms of translational work has important implications for transnational American studies, particularly in reorienting the field beyond its continental US and anglocentric bounds. Taking as its primary object of inquiry the “voluminous influx” of national, racial, and linguistic ‘otherness’ that David Palumbo-Liu describes as “a distinct feature of late twentieth century and early twenty first century age of globalization,” A Tale for the Time Being highlights translation’s central (and often acknowledged) role in shaping the ways in which that otherness is negotiated across geographical and temporal meridians. My reading of the novel’s translational form is twofold. I begin by considering the import of this intervention to the field of Asian American literary studies, focusing on how Ozeki mobilizes the formal elements of interlingual translation to push back against naturalizing conceptions of Asian / American identity. I then apply this translational framework to the divergent accounts of history in the novel and argue that—by calling attention to the fissures and gaps in these narratives—Ozeki offers a new model of empathic reading, one that draws herself and her readers together through a logic of “not knowing.”
Being True to the trans-: Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand and the Transglobal Imagination | José Liste-Noya
To imagine the transnational within or as the outcome of a rapidly globalizing environment is to imagine, as Jean-Luc Nancy has proposed, the ambivalent “worlding” of the world. This notion tries to account for the currently polarized ambivalence of a globalized “totality,” a world where globalization effectively manifests itself in totalizing, hierarchical terms rather than in the shifting differential shapes of the “multiple” that it nevertheless brings into view. This dichotomy within the global or the transnational derives, perhaps, from the obdurate presence of the “national” conceived in still essentializing if not always geographically-centred ways that limit the transformative effect of the “trans-” itself. To truly imagine the transnational one might have to envisage the trans-global; much as the processes of globalization have revealed the intrinsic presence of the transnational within the national, perhaps a truly global view of the world, the world truly seen as a “globe,” is only possible from a trans-global perspective. The literary genre that most fully explores and envisions such possibilities is, of course, science-fiction, possibly the mode of fictional representation most attuned to the birth pangs of the (trans)global. The genre’s visionary tendency echoes the politically utopian imaginings of the transnational. It does so, however, in nuanced masterworks such as Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by imagining otherwise, employing the rhetorical and conceptual effects of science-fiction to both pose and question the socio-political and cultural–technological transformations that have given rise to the consciousness of the global but which have also been channeled into directions that impede a true dawning of the transnational. This essay will focus, then, on how the science-fictional imaginings of Delany’s 1984 novel presciently encounter and critically counter the limitations that characterize a transnational or global imaginary that resists still the uncontainable multiplicity of (a) world(s).
Mapping the Transnational in Contemporary Native American Fiction: Silko and Welch | Lori Merish
Revisiting the terrain of the 2012 JTAS Special Forum, “Charting Transnational Native American Studies,” this essay argues both that the transnational is a valuable, productive lens for understanding Native American literature, and that a consideration of Native American texts is indispensable to the “transnational turn” in Americanist literary scholarship. The essay argues that Native American literary texts engage the transnational in three ways: affirming “America” as transnational cultural space from its inception by staging ways Native cultures’ “dis-identif[y] with the nation”; affirming the transnational complexity of Native cultures; and registering Pan-Indian and indigenous transnationalisms vitally alive in the present. The essay advances these claims through readings of two recent historical novels by major Native American authors: Leslie Marmon Silko’s Gardens of the Dunes (2000), and James Welch’s The Heartsong of Charging Elk (2001). Both novels are set in the late nineteenth century, a critical period in Native American history, especially in the American West; and both novels map complex itineraries for Native American characters who travel abroad, scripting transnationalism in diasporic terms. The essay argues that Silko’s novel portrays transnational encounter as global transindigeneity, casting the transnational as a vehicle to awaken and activate feminist and especially ecofeminist transindigenous solidarities, while Welch employs the form of the transnational bildungsroman to make visible tribal processes of cultural adaptation and transnational dimensions of tribal cultures at “home.”
Exotic Arabs and American Anxiety: Representations of Culinary Tourism in Diana Abu-Jaber’s Crescent | Mandala White
In this essay, I examine the way in which Diana Abu-Jaber's novel, Crescent, presents an exoticised Arabic culture and the relationship of this to a post-9/11 American culture eclipsed by anxieties about terrorism. I am primarily concerned with the text’s representation of what I call “culinary tourism”—its characters’ attempts to access culture (and Arabic culture in particular)—through eating. Food becomes a vehicle through which the text critically explores the dialectics of a post-9/11 American exoticism: the fear of a vaguely defined Arabic or Islamic culture, on the one hand, and the potential for its strangeness to be seen as fascinating on the other. I argue that Crescent is a conflicted novel that presents an exoticised representation of culture through its depiction of food, and yet cannot seem to wholly abandon itself to its own systems of exoticism. On the one hand, as I discuss in Part One of this essay, the novel’s representations of food are a vehicle through which it critiques its characters’ engagement with stereotypes, a mode of cultural interaction which Homi Bhabha argues is always afflicted by anxiety. However, on the other hand, as I discuss in Part Two of this essay, the florid language and imagery it uses in its representations of food reveal its reliance upon the same discourses of exoticism it critiques, and possession by the same kinds of anxieties about Arabic culture that afflict its characters.
Anthologizing “Little Calibans”: Surplus in Junot Díaz’s Linked Stories | Janet Zong York
Anthologizing stories from linked short story collections gives rise to a troubling tension. To select and curate a story in an anthology elevates it to paradigmatic status. Yet, linked collections are anti-paradigmatic: interweaving fragments, rejecting representative conventions and monolithic narratives, and producing a surplus of feeling and knowledge beyond individual stories. These qualities become obscure when reading a single story contextualized in an anthology. This tension is particularly evident with anthologization of authors like Junot Díaz, whose works are suspicious of neoliberal multiculturalism’s totalizing embrace, but whose inclusion as an ethnic, national, or world writer in different anthologies results in varied thematic framings specific to each. Juxtaposing the linked story in two settings, anthology and linked collection, expands scholarly conversations around emergent forms of transnational American literature. This article argues that linked collections preempt, primarily through formal means, the flattening and functionalizing of their stories into unified exemplars of multicultural diversity or universal experience. Examining stories from Díaz’s Drown and This is How You Lose Her alongside these same tales as framed in three Norton anthologies illustrates this possibility. Díaz develops a paradigm of surplus through stories connected by a sense of displacement. This surplus is a literary strategy that anticipates and addresses anthology curation’s effects and expectations. Rather than recuperating identity or loss to construct more unified notions of ethnicity, nation, or world, linked stories give shape to assembled fragments. They point toward a transnationalism invested in how narrative fragments of displacement and diaspora constitute an irreducible surplus.