Special Sorrows: The Diasporic Imagination of Irish, Polish, and Jewish Immigrants in the United States / Edition 1
Conventional wisdom would have us believe that every immigrant to the United States “became American,” by choice and with deliberate speed. Yet, as Special Sorrows shows us, this is simply untrue. In this compelling revisionist study, Matthew Frye Jacobson reveals tenacious attachments to the Old World and explores the significance of homeland politics for Irish, Polish, and Jewish immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century.
Drawing on Yiddish, Polish, and English-language sources, Jacobson discovers the influence of nationalist ideologies in the overt political agendas of such ethnic associations as the Knights of Zion and the Polish Falcons, as well as in newspapers, vernacular theater, popular religion, poetry, fiction, and festivals, both religious and secular. In immigrant communities, he finds that nationalism was a powerful component of popular sensibility.
A captivating example of Jacobson’s thesis is immigrant reaction to American intervention in Cuba. Masculinist/militarist strains of nationalist culture met with the keen impulse to aid a subjugated people. The three national groups, rich with memories of their own subjugation, found an unlikely outlet in the Caribbean. But when the U.S. war for Cuban liberation was followed by a crusade for Philippine subjugation, immigrants faced a dilemma: some condemned the American empire rich in Old World parallels; others dismissed the Filipinos as racial “others” and embraced the glories of conquest. In effect, the crucible of American imperialism was vital to many immigrants’ Americanization, in the sense of passionate participation in national politics, pro or con.
This work answers the call of scholars to recover the full experience of these immigrants. It adds to the tapestry of America’s turn-of-the-century political culture and restores an essential transnational dimension to questions of ethnic identity and behavior.
Matthew Frye Jacobson is William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies and History at Yale University.
Table of Contents
Note on Usage Foreword by David Roediger Introduction:The Diasporic Imagination I. THE CULTURE OF THE DIASPORA 1. Exiles, Pilgrims, Wanderers:Migration in the Context of National Struggle 2. Plaintive Song, Heroic Story:Nationalism and Immigrant Popular Culture 3. Pillars of Fire:The Comparative Literatures of Immigrant Nationalism II. NATIONALIST SENSIBILITY AND AMERICAN EXPANSIONISM 4. Cuba Libre! Immigrant Versions of Spanish Tyranny, Cuban Rights, and American Power 5. Windows on Imperialism:Nationalism, Race, and the Conquest of the Philippines Conclusion:The Diasporic Imagination in the Twentieth Century Afterword to the 2002 Edition Glossary of Names Notes Index
What People are Saying About This
Imaginatively conceived, gracefully written, and persuasively argued, this book makes a major contribution.
David M. Emmons
Imaginatively conceived, gracefully written, and persuasively argued, this book makes a major contribution. David M. Emmons, University of Montana
William R. Taylor
Matthew Jacobson's pace-setting cultural study of three turn-of-the-century immigrant communities shows how the imagination of countries of origin shaped the consciousness of Irish, Polish, and Eastern European settlers. In a masterful analysis of their writings and other forms of cultural expression, he reveals the ways in which their preoccupation with a homeland (in the case of Jews, an imagined homeland), their consciousness of themselves as exiles, created a new and complex kind of almost imperialist surveillance of the world they had left behind, a perspective on national others that has become part of modern American consciousness, as today's headlines suggest. William R. Taylor, New York University
A fresh, original, insightful, and strikingly ambitious effort to reexamine the nationalist impulse in America from the 1840s to our own day as mirrored in the experiences of three carefully selected groups. Inspired by a shift in perspective in teh study of immigration and ethnic history, Jacobson has ventured to do the first comparative study of the common culture of an American ethnopolitical moral consciousness as shaped by the psychodrama of exile. Moses Rischin, San Francisco State University
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