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Imagined Cosmopolis

Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870s–1920s


Edited By Charlotte Ashby, Grace Brockington, Daniel Laqua and Sarah Victoria Turner

The period from the 1870s to the 1920s was marked by an interplay between nationalisms and internationalisms, culminating in the First World War, on the one hand, and the creation of the League of Nations, on the other. The arts were central to this debate, contributing both to the creation of national traditions and to the emergence of ideas, objects and networks that forged connections between nations or that enabled internationalists to imagine a different world order altogether. The essays presented here explore the ways in which the arts operated internationally during this crucial period of nation-making, and how they helped to challenge national conceptions of citizenship, society, homeland and native tongue. The collection arises from the AHRC-funded research network Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870–1920 (ICE; 2009–2014) and its enquiry into the histories of cultural internationalism and their historiographical implications.

This collection has been edited by members of the ICE network convened by Grace Brockington and Sarah Victoria Turner.

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11. Introduction: Real Places and Imagined Journeys (Sarah Victoria Turner)


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11   Introduction: Real Places and Imagined Journeys

Where did internationalists – and the ideas and objects they created – meet? Is it possible to identify sites and spaces that were particularly conducive or receptive to artistic internationalism? Can we map the cultural corridors that facilitated the exchanges of art, artists and ideas across the national borders, which were being erected and emphasized with increasing force towards the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth? What kinds of historical documents in the archive provide evidence of such transnational meetings and gathering places – both real and imagined? And do such sites still operate today? In an era that is witnessing the re-emergence of neo-nationalist and isolationist movements, is hope of common ground, of places for cross-border interaction and cooperation provided by these historical examples?

The emphasis on ‘sites’ in this part focuses our thinking on the geographical and historical specificities of the relationship between the arts and internationalism. There is, however, a tension at play here, generated through the connecting of the terms ‘sites’ and ‘internationalism’. The first term is etymologically and conceptually rooted. From the Latin situs, meaning local position, a site references somewhere specific – a place, a locale, a setting, a spot. Its specificity and boundedness is perhaps at odds with the abstractions associated with the concept of internationalism and the connotations it conjures of mobility, cross-border connections and cooperation, as well as superstructures...

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