Cross-Cultural Harlem: Reimagining Race and Place (Hardcover)
Over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Harlem has been the capital of both Black America and a global African diaspora, an early home for Italian and Jewish immigrant communities, an important Puerto Rican neighborhood, and a representative site of gentrification. How do we understand the power of a place with so many claims and identifications? Drawing on fiction, sociology, political speech, autobiography, and performance, Sandhya Shukla develops a living theory of Harlem, in which peoples of different backgrounds collide, interact, and borrow from each other, even while Blackness remains crucial.Cross-Cultural Harlem reveals a dynamic of exchange that provokes a rethinking of spaces such as Black Harlem, El Barrio, and Italian Harlem. Cross-cultural encounters among African Americans, West Indians, Puerto Ricans, Jews, and Italians provide a story of multiplicity that challenges the framework of territorial enclaves. Shukla illuminates the historical processes that have shaped the diversity of Harlem, examining the many dimensions of its Blackness--Southern, African, Caribbean, Puerto Rican, and more--as well as how white ethnicities have been constructed. Considering literary and historical examples such as Langston Hughes's short story "Spanish Blood," the career of the Italian American left-wing Harlem congressman Vito Marcantonio, and the autobiography of Puerto Rican-Cuban writer Piri Thomas, Shukla argues that cosmopolitanism and racial belonging need not be seen as contradictory. Cross-Cultural Harlem offers a vision of sustained dialogue to respond to the challenges of urban transformations and to affirm the future of Harlem as actual place and global symbol.