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This essay explores the economic and affective relationship between jazz music and cigarettes as they circulated the globe in the early twentieth century, focusing especially on interwar Shanghai, China. Cigarettes and jazz were both big business in Shanghai and they spun together to the fast beats of global capitalism and imperialism. The British American Tobacco Company made China its largest outpost by the 1920s; Shanghai held its headquarters, and the company was the booming city’s largest employer. The jazz cabarets arose to entertain the legions of foreign businessmen in the city, but they soon spread to elite Chinese consumers as well. In those cabarets, cigarettes and jazz found economic and cultural synergy. The essay looks particularly at the expatriate producers of these commodities, U.S. cigarette company managers and African American musicians, as they became both producers and consumers of these commodities within the cabarets.

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