№3 2017

УДК / UDK: 82(091)


Author: Kate Baldwin
About the author:

Kate Baldwin (PhD, Professor; Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

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Langston Hughes was escaping racial terrorism in the United States in hopes of finding racial equality in Russia and beyond. This desire may have found its fullest expression in the essays he wrote while in Russia, both in a Soviet-funded pamphlet called A Negro Looks at Soviet Central Asia and in the handful of essays he published upon his return to the United States. In these essays he came to draw the parallel between the gender segregation of the harem of Soviet Central Asia and the color line in the United States. Hughes was also fascinated by the artistic innovations of the Soviet avant-garde; inspired by the Soviet project — as an artistic and political endeavor — in the 1930s. He sought to use the lessons of linking politics and aesthetics to explore the revolutionary potential of Comintern notions for his own purposes. Through a close reading of Hughes’s essay, In an Emir’s Harem, I consider the situated aesthetics of Hughes’s revolutionary project when he was in Soviet Central Asia, and immediately beyond it. The promise of a Soviet-inspired internationalism lay in its abilities to disrupt conventional national boundaries, foment ethnic particularism, and to establish cross-national alliances. For Hughes, the intervention was at the level of subject formation: if you could put a colored people at the forefront of a revolutionary movement, you could perhaps foment a non-Hegelian account of historical development.

Keywords: Langston Hughes; African American authors; Soviet-Black relationships; race in the Soviet Union; Soviet Central Asia; race and gender in the U.S.; politics, aesthetics and ethnicity; cultures of circulation.

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