Michael Denning. Culture in the Age of Three Worlds. New York, N.Y.: Verso Books, 2004.

Culture in the Age of Three Worlds is two books in one. The first “book” acts as a precursor to his 2015 monograph, Noise Uprising: The Audiopolitics of a World Musical Revolution. In Noise Uprising, Denning argues that music recorded in the 1920s, Cuban son, Brazilian samba, New Orleans’ jazz, Argentinian tango, Spanish flamenco, Arab tarab, South African marabi, and Indonesian kroncong all reverberated around the globe and influenced popular music. In Kika Kila: How the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Changed the Sound of Modern Music, John Troutman writes a specific case study that echoes Denning’s argument.


In this “Globalization” book, Denning argues that a “Cultural Front” did not just occur in the United States. He argues that at IMF riots in the late 1970s, Eastern European uprisings at the falling of the Berlin Wall, and Mexican Zaptistas revolt are all interrelated. Linking these liberation movements together is a globalized popular front: specifically the “Novelists International.”


Proletarian and international writers’ congresses such as Clarté (1919) and the Baku Conference of 1920 helped influence revolutionary writers around the world, particularly in Communist countries, fascist countries, creole countries of the Americas, and colonized countries in Africa and Asia. These international authors focused on tenement lives: the crowded and chaotic collective households of urban workers which spilled out in the streets of proletarian lives. Wherever they’re from, these urban workers tended to come from rural backgrounds. Both Richard Wright’s “Invisible Man”and the Brazilian novels of the “Northeast,” focused on migration from rural to urban.


The Second book Denning writes is a history of Cultural Studies, similar to a history of American Studies written by Philip J. Deloria and Alexander I. Olson. American Studies: A User's Guide. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2017. He credits the interest in the “cultural turn” to Frederic Jameson and Stuart Hall, who were perplexed by the electoral success of the Reagan and Thatcher regimes. Denning suggests that “political-cultural” responses to the counterrevolutionist 1980s and 1990s contains cultural resistance (cutting school/defacing billboards), “cultural justice” (affirmative action, recognizing “black is beautiful”), and ultimately the revolutionary “new cultural moment” (tearing down statues, resetting calendars).