In The Avant-Garde, Mike Sell rejects the common idea that the avant-garde is only about art and insists that it is much more than a European phenomenon. In doing so, he redefines the historical, geographical, ideological, disciplinary, and theoretical boundaries of avant-garde studies and raises a number of difficult questions about the avant-garde— How have avant-gardes been shaped by racism and contributed to racist power and imperialism? How have the claims made by avant-garde political and artistic groups to liberate humanity been indebted to religious intolerance? And how has the vanguard commitment to radical cultural action contributed to war, terror, and destruction?
To answer these questions, Sell presents surprising and incisive juxtapositions of the familiar and the unfamiliar, including futurist manifestos and colonial medical practice in Algeria, expressionist theater and Islamic terrorism, and constructivist paintings and military counterinsurgency strategy. Combined, his analysis establishes a new theory of the avant-garde that helps us to better comprehend the history, power, and promise of cultural activism. The Avant-Garde will interest scholars in modernist and avant-garde studies, cultural studies, literary and art history, and theater and performance studies.