‘From the Tricontinental to the Global South’: A New Book on Race and Transnational Solidarity

This post is part of our blog series that announces the publication of selected new books in African American History and African Diaspora Studies. From the Tricontinental to the Global South was recently published by Duke University Press. 

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The author of From the Tricontinental to the Global South is Anne Garland Mahler, an assistant professor of Latin American cultural studies at the University of Virginia. She is broadly interested in race and social movements in the American hemisphere, especially during the cold war. Her work has appeared in Latin American Research ReviewJournal of Latin American Cultural StudiesSmall Axe: A Caribbean Journal of CriticismThe Global South AtlanticAmerican Communist History, Atlantic Studies: Global Currents, and Oxford Bibliographies of Literary and Critical Theory. Mahler is the creator and director of Global South Studies: A Collective Publication with The Global South. From 2016-2018, she was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Global South Initiative. Mahler is broadly interested in race and social movements in the American hemisphere, and especially in cold war politics and postcolonial and Global South theory. She holds a PhD from Emory University’s Department of Spanish & Portuguese. Follow her on Twitter @agmahler.


In From the Tricontinental to the Global South, Anne Garland Mahler traces the history and intellectual legacy of the understudied global justice movement called the Tricontinental, an alliance of liberation struggles from eighty-two countries, founded in Havana in 1966. Focusing on racial violence and inequality, the Tricontinental’s critique of global capitalist exploitation has influenced historical radical thought, contemporary social movements such as the World Social Forum and Black Lives Matter, and a Global South political imaginary. The Tricontinental–or the Organization of Solidarity with the Peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America– became known for the artistically innovative and politically radical films, posters, and magazines that it published in English, Spanish, French, and sometimes Arabic, and distributed around the world. The movement’s discourse also found its way into radical artistic practices, like Cuban revolutionary film and Nuyorican literature. While recent social movements have revived key elements of Tricontinentalism’s ideologies and aesthetics, they have largely abandoned its primary contributions to a global struggle for racial justice. In response to this fractured appropriation of Tricontinentalism, Mahler ultimately argues that a renewed engagement with black internationalist thought is vital to the future of transnational political resistance.

From the Tricontinental to the Global South’ is a comprehensive, groundbreaking, and intellectually honest study of the Tricontinental’s internationalist agenda for understanding the Global South’s challenges to imperialism and racial oppression. Anne Garland Mahler outlines how social movements, politics, and artistic engagement and black internationalist reflection provide a necessary critical approach to a transnational political resistance in the fight against racial inequalities. ‘From the Tricontinental to the Global South’ is an absolutely must-read for all committed to a Global South political and scholarly resistance.” — William Luis, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Spanish, Vanderbilt University


Keisha N. Blain: What type of impact do you hope your work has on the existing literature on this subject? Where do you think the field is headed and why?  

Anne Garland Mahler: From the Tricontinental to the Global South is in close conversation with scholarship on Third World internationalisms, Black radicalism, and decolonization discourses. Within those areas, I hope the book sparks much more scholarship on this movement and that the Tricontinental receives the kind of scholarly attention that, for example, the 1955 Bandung Conference has received. I hope the book reframes the Tricontinental not simply as a conference that happened in 1966, but as a movement, a body of cultural production produced in four languages for over five decades, and most importantly as an ideology and discourse that remains profoundly influential and that has circulated in a wide array of radical movements. A major goal of this study is to dismantle the idea that the Tricontinental was merely a propaganda arm of the revolutionary Cuban state. Instead, the book places the Tricontinental in its proper place as part of the history of Black internationalism and centers the role specifically of Afro-Cuban intellectuals and activists in conceiving of the ideology of Tricontinentalism. In this way, it contributes to the growing and much-needed trend toward studying the contributions of Afro-Latin Americans to Black radical thought.

Because of the transnational and trans-linguistic networks at the heart of this book, From the Tricontinental to the Global South necessarily intersects with several fields. Most importantly, it highlights a movement that brought together Cold War Afro-Asianisms with Latinamericanism. Thus, within postcolonial studies, which has been framed through the history of Cold War Afro-Asian alliances, I hope this book will highlight the ways that Tricontinentalism transformed our thinking on power and political subjectivity. Alternatively, within Latin American studies, I aim to provide a historical framework for a deeper engagement with postcolonial thought. In this sense, the Tricontinental’s vision is at the heart of a growing field –– Global South Studies ––which examines power and racialization within global capitalism in ways that transcend the nation-state as the unit of comparative analysis. Scholarship in this field traces both contemporary South-South relations –– or relations among subaltern groups across national, linguistic, racial, and ethnic lines –– as well as the histories of those relations in prior forms of South-South exchange. The Tricontinental brought together social movements in what was then called the Third World with movements in wealthier countries and used a metaphorical notion of the South to describe its political collectivity. Tracing the Tricontinental’s history, thus, builds on existent studies of South-South exchange and lays the groundwork for significant expansion in this field.

Copyright © AAIHS. May not be reprinted without permission.

Keisha N. Blain

Keisha N. Blain is a historian of the 20th century United States with broad interdisciplinary interests and specializations in African American History, the modern African Diaspora, and Women’s and Gender Studies. She is the author of Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). Follow her on Twitter @KeishaBlain.