Steven Lee

Assistant Professor Fellow
Image of Steven Lee.

Assistant Professor of English Steven Lee’s book project, “The Ethnic Avant-Garde: American Minority Cultures and World Revolution,” emerges from two prominent emphases within American ethnic and literary studies—first, minority writers’ conceptualization of identities beyond the nation; and second, the radical, cross-ethnic ties behind struggles for civil rights and cultural recognition. “The Ethnic Avant-Garde” synthesizes these emphases by tracing the imprint of the Soviet avant-garde and “really existing socialism” on U.S. minority culture. Through a reexamination of Jewish American, African American, and Asian American literature from the 1920s to the present, Professor Lee focuses on how the notions of ethnic particularism and cultural authenticity gained currency in post-World War II America—in part as responses to socialist visions of racial and ethnic equality. He argues that in the wake of Stalin’s terror, McCarthy’s witch-hunts, and Mao’s Cultural Revolution, American embraces of socialist internationalism gave way to liberal pluralism, which seemed to prevail after the Cold War's end. The project concludes with a reconsideration of this outcome, and explores renewed efforts to imagine alternatives to global capitalism from minority perspectives.