Experiments in Exile
In Experiments in Exile, I explore and compare projects undertaken by two twentieth-century American intellectuals while they lived in voluntary exiles in the United States: the Trinidadian writer and revolutionary C. L. R. James and the Brazilian visual artist and counterculturalist Hélio Oiticica. James and Oiticica never met. They lived and worked in the United States at different moments. My focus is on James’s stay during the 1940s and on Oiticica’s stay during the 1970s. Given the significant differences between them—not just at the level of nationality but at the level of race (James was black, Oiticica was white), class (James was situated within a precarious middle class, Oiticica was firmly established within an upper middle class), sexuality (James was straight, Oiticica was gay), and disciplinary locations (James is generally situated in the history of radical social theory and practice, and Oiticica is generally situated in the history of avant-garde aesthetic theory and practice)—this is surely an unlikely combination. This study is itself an experiment, one that goes beyond the usual parameters of comparativist or transnational research, to identify, in the surprising resonances between the projects pursued by these two very disparate figures, a common project I believe they, together, bring into relief....
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