Immigrants Against the State: Yiddish and Italian Anarchism in America

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by Kenyon Zimmer

University of Illinois Press

6/1/2015, paperback

SKU: 9780252080920


From the 1880s through the 1940s, tens of thousands of first- and second-generation immigrants embraced the anarchist cause after arriving on American shores. Kenyon Zimmer explores why these migrants turned to anarchism, and how their adoption of its ideology shaped their identities, experiences, and actions.

Zimmer focuses on Italians and Eastern European Jews in San Francisco, New York City, and Paterson, New Jersey. Tracing the movement's changing fortunes from the pre-World War I era through the Spanish Civil War, Zimmer argues that anarchists, opposed to both American and Old World nationalism, severed all attachments to their nations of origin but also resisted assimilation into their host society. Their radical cosmopolitan outlook and identity instead embraced diversity and extended solidarity across national, ethnic, and racial divides. Though ultimately unable to withstand the onslaught of Americanism and other nationalisms, the anarchist movement nonetheless provided a shining example of a transnational collective identity delinked from the nation-state and racial hierarchies.


"Zimmer's archival research is impressive... a fascinating examination of the interplay of individuals of various ethnicities... involved with anarchism and its sympathizers in San Francisco."-- International Review of Social History

"Drawing on an impressive and unprecedented array of Yiddish- and Italian-language sources, Zimmer details both the ideological connections and ethnocultural obstacles that supported and separated anarchist communities... Zimmer's research and scope is encyclopedic... Zimmer's fine book is indispensable."-- The Journal of American History

About the Author:

Kenyon Zimmer is an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at Arlington.