Diaspora and Resistance:
A French Black Atlantic and
[R]acism is perpetuated when blackness is associated solely with concrete
gut level experience conceived as either opposing or having no connection
to abstract thinking and the production of critical theory. The idea that there
is no meaningful connection between black experience and critical thinking
about aesthetics or culture must be continually interrogated.
—bell hooks, Yearning
Most histories of European aesthetic modernism leave out the massive in-
fusions of non-European cultures to the metropolitan heartland during the
early years of this century….
—Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism
It is commonplace to read in literary histories of modernism that interwar Paris was a space of exile for writers and artists from Europe and the United States. From Hemingway, Stein, Joyce, and Beckett to Tzara, Janco, and Arp, Paris offered a particular set of expressive freedoms for the modernist innovator. The presence of African American and Caribbean writers and artists in Paris has tended to be a secondary narrative to this notion of modernist exile and one more focussed on a later phase, between 1945 and 1960, when writers such as Richard Wright, Chester Himes, and Gordon Parks made Paris their temporary home. Black cultural activity in the interwar era has been a much less explored area, limited in the main to studies of individual writers like Längsten Hughes or Claude McKay. Recently, however, there has been a notable upsurge in critical attention