Surrealism: A Global Cultural Movement with Local Political Agency


Surrealism is a cosmopolitan cultural movement that transcends the very notion of a nation-state. Notwithstanding, it has been canonised as Paris-centric, which belies its global expanse. Whilst surrealism’s cultural impact remains globally untrammelled, it empirically mustered political dissent in the local politics of Haiti, Martinique and Mexico. I postulate that Surrealism’s political impact was greater locally since it misaligned with the internationalist dogma of Marxism. Furthermore, Surrealism successfully subsumed the cooperation of local intellectuals who wrote under the auspices of Breton. In Martinique, Breton collaborates on a journal called Tropiques edited by Aime Cesaire in which tacit denunciations of the Vichyssoise authorities occur. Cesaire would later become a deputy in the French parliament representing his local constituency of Martinique, safeguarding surrealist political endeavours by founding the Martinican progressive party. In Haiti, Andre Breton delivered an inaugural lecture in front of their President Lescot in which he elaborated an alternative to his repressive regime. Subsequently, an anti-government journal , La Ruche, dedicated an issue to Breton for which they were later arrested. Ultimately, Lescot was overthrown. In Mexico, Breton was invited as French Culture attaché. He met with Octavio Paz who was himself cultural attaché to the Mexican embassy, concurrently imbricated in surrealist politics. Again , this fomented localised political penetration of surrealism through culture. Negociating the interstices between politics and culture, surrealism played a bilateral , localised diplomatic role in aiding ‘peripheral’ countries to acquire a greater presence in international relations whilst promoting their autonomous artistic output in copious journals.

Author Information
Lauren Walden, Coventry University, UK

Paper Information
Conference: GLOBAL2016
Stream: Cultural Studies

This paper is part of the GLOBAL2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon