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The Afro-Asian Analogy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


If the spate of recent publications on transnational Afro-Asian connections is any indication, we may have finally arrived at a welcome third stage of ethnic studies, one long postponed by a standoff between a multiracial model limited by a national horizon and a diasporic model that lacked a historical ground for conducting cross-racial analysis. The neo-Bandung allegiance of this Afro-Asianism—most prominent in the work of Vijay Prashad and Bill Mullen—explicitly aligns itself against the postnationalist ethos of hybridity theory and in favor of a toughened anti-imperial stance. There is much to admire about this critical turn; its increasing influence is surely a sign of our worsening times, reflected in the difference between the postsocialist euphoria of the 1990s—which projected the radicalization of democracy through the articulation of class with race, gender, and sexuality—and the return of empire and its banalization of democratic rhetoric after 9/11. Despite this Afro-Asianist project's more open recognition of the relevance of Asian embourgeoisement to its own desire for a renewed resistance politics, however, it is not yet clear whether the retrieval of Third Worldist genealogies accomplishes something more than a nostalgic response to the rise of Asian capitalism on a world scale and to the thinning claim of Asian American intellectuals to any representative function. And yet, to fulfill the originary promise of ethnic studies, which emerged out of the articulation between anti-imperialist and anti-racist struggle in the late 1960s, this is what it must and should do.

Correspondents at Large
Copyright © 2008 by The Modern Language Association of America

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