A century ago, activists confronting racism and colonialism—in India, South Africa, and Black America—used print media to connect with one another. Then, as now, the most effective medium for their undertakings was the English language. Imperfect Solidarities: Tagore, Gandhi, Du Bois, and the Global Anglophone tells the story of this interconnected Anglophone world. Through Rabindranath Tagore’s writings on China, Mahatma Gandhi’s recollections of South Africa, and W. E. B. Du Bois’s invocations of India, Madhumita Lahiri theorizes print internationalism. This methodology requires new terms within the worldwide hegemony of the English language (“the global Anglophone”) in order to encourage alternate geographies (such as the Global South) and new collectivities (such as people of color).
The women of print internationalism feature prominently in this account. Sonja Schlesin, born in Moscow, worked with Indians in South Africa. Sister Nivedita, an Irish woman in India, collaborated with a Japanese historian. Jessie Redmon Fauset, an African American, brought the world home to young readers through her work as an author and editor.
Reading across races and regions, genres and genders, Imperfect Solidarities demonstrates the utility of the neologism for postcolonial literary studies.
“This beautifully written and deeply insightful book on anticolonial neologisms and ‘print internationalism’ gives light to the connection between language and revolution. Indispensable reading for anyone with an interest in the textual and literary stakes of postcolonial studies.” —Leela Gandhi, author of The Common Cause: Postcolonial Ethics and the Practice of Democracy, 1900–1950
“This book constitutes an important intervention into current debates on world and transnational literature by providing a new and completely original take on the idea of the ‘global Anglophone,’ a concept that this project rescues from its current anodyne interpretation . . . By complicating current ideas of internationalism, the book distinguishes itself by paying attention to the difficulties, embarrassments, and contradictions of transnational ventures. In contrast to romantic ideas of global anti-imperial solidarity, this book meticulously demonstrates a more complicated and interesting picture.” —Isabel Hofmeyr, author of Gandhi’s Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading
“Put aside misgivings about writing ‘in the language of the colonizer.’ In this astonishing book Madhumita Lahiri shows just how print internationalism, female agency, and the English language could be mobilized to write against Anglo-American hegemony at its apex. ’Imperfect’ though they may have been, Tagore, Gandhi and Du Bois challenged racism and the almighty dollar by inventing new cosmopolitan publics, linking South to South in ways we must learn from today.” —Haun Saussy, author of Are We Comparing Yet? and translator of Jean Métellus’s When the Pipirite Sings (Northwestern, 2019)