Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

"The Whole World is Our Country": Immigration and Anarchism in the United States, 1885-1940

Zimmer, Kenyon (2010) "The Whole World is Our Country": Immigration and Anarchism in the United States, 1885-1940. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (3MB) | Preview


From the 1880s through the 1940s tens of thousands of anarchists were active in the United States, the overwhelming majority of them first- and second-generation immigrants. But most were not yet devotees of the anarchist cause when they arrived on American shores. Instead, a clear link existed between migration and the embrace of anarchist ideology. This study asks how and whythousands of migrants became anarchists, and how their embrace of an anti-nationalist and cosmopolitan ideology shaped their identities, experiences and actions.Utilizing anarchist publications, government surveillance files, and archival materials, it focuses on Eastern European Jews and Italians—the two largest segments of the anarchist movement by the turn of the century—and the development of anarchism among these groups in three important centers of American anarchism: New York's Lower East Side, Paterson, New Jersey, and San Francisco. It then follows the changing fortunes of the movement in the face of war, the Russian Revolution, the First Red Scare, and the birth of communism and fascism, and ends with an examination of immigrant American anarchist participation in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, and that conflict's dramatic impact on the movement in the United States.This study argues that it was American conditions that usually made immigrants into anarchists, rather than European ones, inextricably linking the histories of migration and American anarchism. Nevertheless, the phenomenon of post-migration radicalization defies categorization within most historiographical paradigms of European immigration that focus on the construction of "hyphenated" American identities or "hybrid" transnational ones. Anarchists chose an alternative: they embraced an ideology that opposed both Americanization and Old World nationalisms, severing their attachments to their states of origin while willfully resisting assimilation into their host society. They formulated a radical cosmopolitan outlook and identity that embraced diversity, rejected hierarchies, and extended solidarity across national, ethnic, and racial divides. This cosmopolitanism was ultimately unable to withstand the onslaught of competing nationalisms ranging from Americanism to fascism to Zionism, but it stands as an important example of a transnational collective identity delinked from nationalism, the nation-state and racial hierarchies.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairOestreicher, Richard
Committee MemberGabaccia, Donna
Committee MemberRediker, Marcus
Committee MemberManning, Patrick
Date: 1 October 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 29 April 2010
Approval Date: 1 October 2010
Submission Date: 18 May 2010
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anarchists; Immigrants; Italians; Jews; Labor; Lower East Side; Paterson; Radicalism; San Francisco; Yiddish
Other ID:, etd-05182010-125238
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:45
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:43


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item