Anti-Music examines the critical, literary, and political responses to African American jazz music in interwar Germany. During this time, jazz was the subject of overt political debate between left-wing and right-wing interests: for the left, jazz marked the death knell of authoritarian Prussian society; for the right, jazz was complicit as an American import threatening the chaos of modernization and mass politics. This conflict was resolved in the early 1930s as the left abandoned jazz in the face of Nazi victory, having come to see the music in collusion with the totalitarian culture industry. Mark Christian Thompson recounts the story of this intellectual trajectory and describes how jazz came to be associated with repressive, virulently racist fascism in Germany. By examining writings by Hermann Hesse, Bertolt Brecht, T.W. Adorno, and Klaus Mann, and archival photographs and images, Thompson brings together debates in German, African American, and jazz studies, and charts a new path for addressing antiblack racism in cultural criticism and theory.
Kafka’s Blues proves the startling thesis that many of Kafka’s major works engage in a coherent, sustained meditation on racial transformation from white European into what Kafka refers to as the “Negro” (a term he used in English). Indeed, this book demonstrates that cultural assimilation and bodily transformation in Kafka’s work are impossible without passage through a state of being “Negro.” Kafka represents this passage in various ways—from reflections on New World slavery and black music to evolutionary theory, biblical allusion, and aesthetic primitivism—each grounded in a concept of writing that is linked to the perceived congenital musicality of the “Negro,” and which is bound to his wider conception of aesthetic production. Mark Christian Thompson offers new close readings of canonical texts and undervalued letters and diary entries set in the context of the afterlife of New World slavery and in Czech and German popular culture.
In this provocative book, Mark Christian Thompson addresses the startling fact that many African American intellectuals in the 1930s sympathized with fascism, seeing in its ideology a means of envisioning new modes of African American political resistance. Thompson surveys the work and thought of several authors and asserts that their sometimes positive reaction to generic European fascism, and its transformation into black fascism, is crucial to any understanding of Depression-era African American literary culture.
Roš Chodeš (journal of Prague’s Jewish community), 2014. In Czech.
Teaching and Research Interests:
18th-, 19th- and 20th-Century German, African-American and American literature, philosophy and culture; political theory; critical theory
“What Will Be African-American Literature?” American Literary History (Winter 2013) 25 (4): 958-966.
“The Negro Who Disappeared: Race in Kafka’s Amerika.” Violence, Aesthetics, Culture: Germany, 1789-1938. Eds. Carl Niekerk and Stefani Engelstein. Amsterdam/ New York: Rodopi, 2011. 183-198.
“Aesthetic Hygiene: W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and the Work of Art.” The Blackwell Companion to African American Literature. Ed. Gene Jarrett. New York: Blackwell, 2010. 244-253.
“A Response to Xiomara Santamarina.” American Literary History 20.1-2 (Spring- Summer 2008): 317-320.
“Voodoo Fascism: Fascist Ideology in Arna Bontemps’ Drums at Dusk.” MELUS 30.3 (Fall 2005): 155-178.
“National Socialism and Blood-Sacrifice in Zora Neale Hurston’s Moses, Man of the Mountain.” African American Review 38.3 (2004): 395-415.
“The God of Love: Fascism in George S. Schuyler’s Black Empire.” CLA Journal 48.2 (Dec. 2004): 183-99.
“Hamid, Sufi Abdul,” Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. 2 vols. Eds. Cary D. Wintz and Paul Finkelman. New York: Routledge, 2004. 459-460.
Papers and Conferences:
“The Way Out: The Slave Narrative in Kafka’s Ein Bericht für eine Akademie,” Invited Lecture, New York University, Prague, 3/14
“Ape Autobiography: On Kafka’s Ein Bericht für eine Akademie as a Slave Narrative,” Invited Lecture, Symposium: “Blackness, Germany, and the Concept of Race,” UCLA, 4/12
“Being Beloved: Morrison, Heidegger, and Black Anti-Humanism,” Invited Lecture, Americanist Colloquium Series, Yale University, 12/09
“The Apostles of Beauty: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Aesthetics of Double Consciousness,” Invited Lecture, Brown University, 01/09
“The Apostles of Beauty: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Aesthetics of Double Consciousness,” Invited Lecture, The Johns Hopkins University, 01/09
“The Critique of Nonviolence: Benjamin, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Sovereignty,” Invited Lecture, Brown University, 08/08
“The Critique of Nonviolence: Benjamin, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Sovereignty,” Invited Lecture, The Institute for American Studies, Rome, Italy, 04/08
“Jazz: The Music of Fascism: On Adorno and His Negroes,” Friedrich-Alexander University, Invited Lecture, Erlangen, Germany, 03/08
“The Black Arts and Black Neofascism,” Invited Lecture, The University of California, Santa Barbara, 01/07
“The Sun Also Races: Hemingway’s Blackness,” Invited Lecture, The University of California, Irvine, 12/06
“Performing Revolution: The Black Aesthetic as Insurgence,” Invited Panelist, New Directions in African American Theory and Criticism Conference, Indiana University, 04/06
“Black Fascisms,” States of Welfare: A Mellon Foundation Conference, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 03/06
“The Negro Who Disappeared: Race in Kafka’s Amerika,” Violence in German Literature, Culture and Intellectual History, 1789-1938, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 10/05
“The Negro Who Disappeared: Race in Kafka’s Amerika,” Die Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 02/05
“Jazz: The Music of Fascism: On Adorno and His Negroes,” Invited Panelist, The Frankfurt School Today, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 04/04
“Jealous Rebels: Fascism in The Outsider,” Invited Panelist, New Directions in African American Theory and Criticism Conference, Indiana University, 04/04
“The Myth of Marcus Garvey.” Invited Speaker, Harvard University, 01/04 “The Sufi.” Invited Speaker, Vassar College, 01/04
“My Own Private Ethiopia: Ethiopianism and Classical Black Nationalism in The Souls of Black Folk.” Modern Language Association Annual Conference, San Diego, CA, 12/03
“The Possessed Island: African-American Cultural Appropriations of Post-Occupation Haiti.” South Atlantic Modern Language Association Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA, 11/03
“‘In Turban and Gorgeous Robe’”: Claude McKay, Black Labor and Fascism in 1930s Harlem.” American Studies Association Annual Conference, Hartford, CT, 10/03
“The Myth of Marcus Garvey: Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the Universal Negro Improvement Association and Fascist Ideology.” New Directions in African American Theory, Criticism and Cultural Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 4/03
“The God of Love: Fascism and Melodrama in George S. Schuyler’s Black Empire.” Guest Speaker, University of California, Los Angeles, 2/03
“Distant Drums: Voodoo, Fascism and Haitian Revolution in Arna Bontemps, Drums at Dusk.” South Atlantic Modern Language Association Annual Conference, 11/02
“The Death Continent: Blood-Sacrifice and Authoritarian Rule in D.H. Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent.” Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Annual Conference, 10/02
“Killing Coons: The Scapegoating of African America in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and Ellison’s Invisible Man.” Guest Speaker, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2/01
Academic Honors and Awards:
Fulbright Fellowship, Charles University, Prague, CZ, Spring 2008
Mellon Foundation Fellowship Award, Spring 2004
Humanities Released Time Grant, Fall 2004
New England Board of Higher Education Minority Scholar in-Residence Dissertation Fellowship, University of New Hampshire, 2000-2001
New York University-Freie Universität zu Berlin Summer Dissertation Research Grant, Freie Universität zu Berlin, 2000