Matthew Briones

Associate Professor of American History and the College
Faculty Affiliate, Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture
PhD 2005 Harvard University
AM 2000 Harvard University
AB 1994 Harvard College

Social Science Research Building, room 204B – Office
(773) 702-1590 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History, Mailbox 63
1126 E. 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

Field Specialties

Comparative race relations; Asian/Pacific Islander American history; African American history; Interracial and interethnic coalitions and conflicts; immigration; transnationalism, especially between the United States and the Philippines; and the history of baseball and American culture

Biography

A deep and abiding interest in the interactions between Asian Americans and African Americans drives my first book manuscript. Focusing primarily on the home front culture of World War II, but utilizing the necessary bookends of the Popular Front of the 1930s and the Cold War of the 1950s, my monograph interrogates the ways in which different racialized and ethnic groups interacted during a heightened sense of possibility for an American multiracial democracy. Unpublished diaries of incarcerated Japanese American, Charles Kikuchi, serve as a narrative through-line for the manuscript—he wrote every day of his life, from the bombing of Pearl Harbor until his death in 1988. While Kikuchi can be considered one of a handful of radical Nisei (second-generation) intellectuals consumed by the constitutional violation of Japanese Americans, he was most deeply concerned with the welfare of African Americans and other oppressed minorities. Recognition of their equality by the rest of the nation would prove key to the fulfillment of democracy at home and abroad. My book therefore considers prototypes for Kikuchi, like Karl Yoneda, a highly visible Communist Party member during the Popular Front, intellectual mentors during the war, such as immigrant activist Louis Adamic, W.I. Thomas, and Dorothy Thomas, social scientists associated with, respectively, the Chicago school of sociology and Japanese evacuation and resettlement study, and “everyday people,” from African Americans on the South Side of Chicago to Filipino migratory farm laborers in central California. The Cold War closes off some of the interracial and democratic possibilities of this fertile intellectual era, but not before a constellation of radical counterpublics appear on the national and international maps. A cartography of this period, therefore, demonstrates not only the importance of reexamination of the Kikuchi diaries, but also the efforts and limits of these particular publics to repossess, reclaim, and redefine American democracy.  

I have been honored to be a dissertation fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow. Prior to Chicago, I taught at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and most recently, the University of Michigan.

Publications

Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940's Interracial America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012.

"Charles Kikuchi's 'American Dilemma': African Americans in the Unpublished Diaries of a Nisei Intellectual." In Journey into Otherness: Essays in North American History, Culture and Literature, 191–203. Edited by Ada Savin. Amsterdam: VU Press, 2005.

"Hardly 'Small Talk': Discussing Race in the Writing of Hisaye Yamamoto." Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies 29 (2005): 435–472. 

"The Unpublished Diaries of Charles Kikuchi: 'Black and Yellow' through the Eyes of a Progressive Nisei Intellectual." Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies 28 (2004): 383–427.  

"Call-and-Response: Tracing the Ideological Shifts of Richard Wright through His Correspondence with Friends and Fellow Literati." African American Review 37, no. 1 (spring 2003): 53–64.

Interviews

Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America

BookTV (CSPAN2) recently recorded and aired a conversation between Cornel West and Matthew M. Briones regarding Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America at the historic Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem in May 2012.

"Just a Friendly Game." Interview with Desmond Nakano, director of White Man's Burden (1995) and American Pastime (2007). Nakano's latest film revisits the Japanese American incarceration through the lens of camp league baseball games, jazz-band swinging, and interracial romance. From Cinevue: Program for the Asian American International Film Festival, 2007.