Special Issue

The Global Dialogics of the New Age



The London-based weekly the New Age, edited by A. R. Orage from 1907 to 1922, was known for promoting spirited debates on politics, literature, and the arts. Scholars have been attentive to what Ann Ardis terms the magazine’s ‘unusual commitment to […] Bakhtinian dialogics in the public sphere’, but less so to the role that the letters column played in facilitating these often contentious, often transnational debates. This essay argues that the letters column functioned as a forum for linking not only individual readers and contributors from around the world, but also wider discursive and periodical communities. A case study of global dialogics, the essay focuses on an eleven-month debate that unfolded in New Age correspondence concerning the so-called black peril — the purported epidemic of black men attempting to rape white women in South Africa, which historians today regard as a moral panic fuelled by a desire to reinforce white supremacy. The flames of the panic were stoked by the Umtali case of 1910, in which Lord Gladstone commuted the death sentence of an Umtali native convicted of attempted rape to life imprisonment. This decision sparked mass protests and petitions among the white community in South Africa and a heated discussion about race and racism that reverberated throughout the empire, including in the columns of the New Age. The letters column served as an international forum, drawing in white settlers from Johannesburg, Crisis editor and NAACP founder W. E. B. Du Bois, Sudanese-Egyptian writer Dusé Mohamed Ali, and British suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, among others. This essay examines the gendered and racial politics of this debate and how it was shaped by its specific periodical context and by the national and ideological contexts of its interlocutors.


How to Cite: Snyder, C. (2021) “The Global Dialogics of the New Age”, Journal of European Periodical Studies. 6(2). doi: https://doi.org/10.21825/jeps.v6i2.20286