Redrawing the Balance of Power: Black Left Feminists, China, and the Making of an Afro-Asian Political Imaginary, 1949-1976

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This dissertation traces the history of African American leftist feminists’ interactions with Chinese government officials and intellectuals during the first three decades following the end of the Second World War. This period, bookended by the founding of the Chinese Communist regime and the decline both of Maoism in China and of Black radicalism in the US, witnessed concerted efforts by Black women radicals and the party-state to weave the African American freedom struggle, China’s socialist construction, and anticolonial national liberation movements in Asia and Africa into a united front for a just world order. Examining the engagements of Eslanda Robeson, Claudia Jones, Mabel Williams, and Vicki Garvin with China as case studies, this dissertation shows that the transportation and communication technologies of the era enabled Black left feminists’ access to a transnational mediascape through which they mobilized multiple publics toward the cause of antiracism, anti-imperialism, and Third World national liberation. In building Afro-Asian alliances and collaborations, Black radical feminists ensured that women’s liberation was part of any revolutionary agenda and formulated new notions of the radical Black female subject that both challenged and reinforced the gender and sexual norms of Cold War China and African America. In addition to negotiating the gender and sexual hierarchies of the time, they also had to carefully maneuver their way through the thickets of Cold War political intrigue and of geopolitical and ideological tension within the Third World and the Communist camp. Although their political imaginaries were fraught by Cold War realpolitik, Black left feminists crafted independent political positions and consciously attempted to forge ahead with their own agendas. The first book-length study of Black women’s internationalism in China, this dissertation shows that Black left feminists played a crucial role in shaping the history of Afro-Asian solidarity and the contours of Cold War international relations.

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267 pages


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Afro-Asian Solidarity; Black Internationalism; Black Left Feminism; Cold War China; Geopolitics; Transnational Feminism


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Rickford, Russell

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Gaines, Kevin Kelly
Boyce Davies, Carole Elizabeth

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Africana Studies

Degree Name

Ph. D., Africana Studies

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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