cover image Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination

Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination

Benedict Richard O'Gorman Anderson. Verso, $25 (255pp) ISBN 978-1-84467-037-6

This unique study weaves together the erotic obsessions of avant-garde French novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans, the execution of a Filipino writer and activist, a Cuban insurrection, the assassination of President McKinley and the Dreyfus Affair in an exploration of links between the international anarchist movement of the 19th century and nascent Filipino nationalism. Cornell scholar Anderson presents his case with the zeal of a researcher uncovering hidden history, referencing an impressive range of sources in multiple languages (Tagalog, Spanish, French, German) and anchoring his study in the life stories of early Filipino patriots Jose Rizal and Isabelo de los Reyes. The volume provides fascinating insights into the global flow of anarchic and anti-colonial ideas, though some of the links the author describes, such as that between Rizal, Huysmans and other European anarchists, remain tenuous and speculative, and he freely admits that his evidence is at times ""circumstantial."" Unlike the author's Imagined Communities (1983), which moved beyond the examination of specific national movements to put forward a provocative theory on the nature of nationalism itself, this volume, for all its geographical sweep, never addresses such universal concerns. Though the introduction states that this interplay of anarchy and global hegemony contains ""a number of parallels and resonances with our own time,"" there's little analysis of the ways in which the tumultuous period under review might illuminate the current state of world politics. Students of anarchism and anti-colonialism will find a thought-provoking, informative study, but non-specialists will be left hoping for more far-reaching conclusions.