Projects per year
W. E. B. Du Bois’s Dark Princess (1928) has become a paradigmatic text for left internationalism and Afro-Asian solidarity. This essay argues that Du Bois’s “hybrid progressivism” enchants the American welfare state by giving it an intellectual genealogy that emphasizes Eastern political thought. Dark Princess engages with the Arthashastra, an ancient work of political theory that was ostensibly written by the advisor to Chandragupta, who unified India as a subcontinent. This legend stimulated a Du Boisian fantasy of global leadership, one that parallels the contemporary recuperation of the Arthashastra for power politics. However, the Arthashastra’s discussion of social programs and infrastructure also introduces the concept of the welfare state. Interweaving the Arthashastra with black life in Chicago, Du Bois gives the progressive activist Sara Andrews a surprising agency. For our contemporary moment, the most important aspect of Dark Princess is its vision of an antiracist and culturally syncretic New Deal.
Bibliographical noteIn its own modest way, this essay is a transnational effort. I'm extremely grateful to the Hong Kong Research Grants Council for funding. The University of Cape Town provided a grant and teaching relief. Although separated from me by an ocean and a great deal of time, my adviser at the University of California, Irvine, Michael P. Clark, has continued to provide invaluable support. This project began years ago in John Carlos Rowe’s boundarycrossing seminar U.S. Modernisms, at UC Irvine, and I’d like to thank John for helping me to stow away on Du Bois’s ship and undertake an illuminating sea voyage.
Visions of Progress in African American Literature: The Nation-State, Pan-Africanism, and Social Reform (非裔美國文學中的進步圖景)
1/01/18 → 31/12/20
Project: Grant Research