Jason Frydman deposited Peter Abrahams of South Africa: Learning to Read (in) the Global 1930s on MLA Commons 2 years, 6 months ago
Born poor, the material and ideological networks that propelled Peter Abrahams to literacy in 1930s South Africa lay bare how white liberalism, Pan-Africanism, and Marxism all overlapped as well as contradicted one another in the global 1930s. The confluences and contradictions of these currents of thought, artistic production, and political action structure not only Abrahams’s early life and writing, they haunt the Cold War-era writings which established Abrahams’s international reputation, a treacherous era which saw many of his 1930s peers sink into impoverished obscurity. Abrahams’s perduring reputation depended on his precarious ability to write and act from the ironic institutional conjunctures that brought together a fragile constellation of networks and positions, derived from the Popular Front politics of the global 1930s, teetering on the edge of collapse and mutual negation. Yet anachronistic readings of his political and literary entanglements, and a failure to take seriously the sites of his early literacy and youthful writings, have manhandled this fragility, overwriting as a watery liberalism his generative merging of Pan-Africanism and Marxism that remains relevant today.