Imperial Blues

Geographies of Race and Sex in Jazz Age New York

Imperial Blues

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 11 photographs Published: February 2014

American Studies, Gender and Sexuality, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In this pathbreaking study, Fiona I. B. Ngô examines how geographies of U.S. empire were perceived and enacted during the 1920s and 1930s. Focusing on New York during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, Ngô traces the city's multiple circuits of jazz music and culture. In considering this cosmopolitan milieu, where immigrants from the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Japan, and China crossed paths with blacks and white "slummers" in dancehalls and speakeasies, she investigates imperialism's profound impact on racial, gendered, and sexual formations. As nightclubs overflowed with the sights and sounds of distant continents, tropical islands, and exotic bodies, tropes of empire provided both artistic possibilities and policing rationales. These renderings naturalized empire and justified expansion, while establishing transnational modes of social control within and outside the imperial city. Ultimately, Ngô argues that domestic structures of race and sex during the 1920s and 1930s cannot be understood apart from the imperial ambitions of the United States.


"[G]raduate students in body studies, cross-cultural theory, gender, and queer studies would appreciate this exercise." — Yves Laberge, Journal of American Culture

“[Ngô] deftly employs social history; ethnography; 'queer' studies; and analysis of literary, visual, and musical texts, making her book of potential interest to a diverse audience. … [I]t is a rewarding and insightful book, tying together multiple threads that were at some point disentangled by scholars with narrower foci on specific components of the Jazz Age and Harlem Renaissance.”  — E. Taylor Atkins, Journal of American Studies

Imperial Blues is an original and valuable study that contributes to histories of imperialism, sexuality, gender, and urban spaces. The study will be of use to students and scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds.” — Imaobong D. Umoren, Gender & History

“With its attention to such cartographies for mapping pleasure and importance, Imperial Blues is a welcome contribution to interdisciplinary scholarship on a relatively neglected period for the intersections of postcolonial studies, critical ethnic studies, postnational American studies, and queer studies." — Victor Bascara, GLQ

Imperial Blues reminds us that while historians may writhe under the theoretical weight of recent American studies scholarship, they can also  benefit from its provocative approaches and insights.” — Burton W. Peretti, Journal of American History

"Imperial Blues is a spectacular elaboration of queer of color critique. Fiona I. B. Ngô creatively reveals how orientalist discourses shaped Jazz Age subjectivities and social life. Theorizing racialized sexuality, she blurs the boundaries between domestic and international migrations, political and aesthetic discourses, and global and national racial formations. This is a beautifully conceived book." — Roderick Ferguson, coeditor of Strange Affinities: The Gender and Sexual Politics of Comparative Racialization

"I love this book. It is smart, fresh, and new, a game-changer. Imperial Blues is a theoretically astute and historically grounded cultural studies analysis of empire as central to the circuits of, and discourses about, jazz in Jazz Age New York." — Sherrie Tucker, coeditor of Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Fiona I. B. Ngô is Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies and of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1. Desire and Danger in Jazz's Contact Zones 33

2. Queer Modernities 71

3. Orienting Subjectivities 121

4. Dreaming of Araby 155

Conclusion. Academic Indiscretions 187

Notes 193

Bibliography 231

Index 251
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5539-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5524-3
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