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Harnessing the wind: East and Central African activists and anticolonial cultures in a decolonising world, 1952-64

Dates:
  • Tue 17 Sep 2019 10.00 - 12.30
  Add to Calendar 2019-09-17 10:00 2019-09-17 12:30 Europe/Paris Harnessing the wind: East and Central African activists and anticolonial cultures in a decolonising world, 1952-64

This thesis maps the anticolonial thought and practice – an anticolonial culture – of a generation of mobile activists from Malawi, Zambia, Uganda and mainland Tanzania, during the period 1952-64. Global histories of decolonisation continue to portray the independence of East and Central Africa as a natural corollary of a world-wide process, a narrative facilitated by the neglect of anticolonial work beyond the borders of the nation-state-to-be in (revisionist) histories of African nationalism. As it appeared to the actors in this thesis, however, the momentum of decolonisation needed to be actively harnessed from beyond colonial borders, by building contacts, publishing pamphlets, organising conferences and changing minds.
Putting ‘nationalism’ to one side, and foregrounding the everyday frustrations of transnational organising, makes legible a swathe of previously ignored printed ephemera. This allows us to follow these activists from the period 1952-55, when this generation passed through education institutions (in Africa and abroad) in the context of a set of regional crises and the consolidation of party politics; through the period 1956-59, when external representation in London, New Delhi, Cairo, and Accra became a (contested) strategy of the relevant nationalist parties; and into the period 1960-64, when all four countries gained flag independence and activists became increasingly disillusioned with the possibilities of transnational action in a Cold War context. Specific ideas about information, knowledge production, and publicity emerged from carrying out anticolonial work around the edges of an increasingly oppressive colonial state. These ideas responded to and shaped pan-African and Afro-Asian discourses, and informed better-documented moments of global activism in the following decades. Looking in at global anticolonial ‘hubs’ and ‘moments’ from the perspective of interested actors at their edges, the thesis demonstrates that not only did these activists do the labour of connecting up decolonisations – they also co-authored the narrative that decolonisation was global.

Sala del Torrino , Villa Salviati DD/MM/YYYY
  Sala del Torrino , Villa Salviati

This thesis maps the anticolonial thought and practice – an anticolonial culture – of a generation of mobile activists from Malawi, Zambia, Uganda and mainland Tanzania, during the period 1952-64. Global histories of decolonisation continue to portray the independence of East and Central Africa as a natural corollary of a world-wide process, a narrative facilitated by the neglect of anticolonial work beyond the borders of the nation-state-to-be in (revisionist) histories of African nationalism. As it appeared to the actors in this thesis, however, the momentum of decolonisation needed to be actively harnessed from beyond colonial borders, by building contacts, publishing pamphlets, organising conferences and changing minds.
Putting ‘nationalism’ to one side, and foregrounding the everyday frustrations of transnational organising, makes legible a swathe of previously ignored printed ephemera. This allows us to follow these activists from the period 1952-55, when this generation passed through education institutions (in Africa and abroad) in the context of a set of regional crises and the consolidation of party politics; through the period 1956-59, when external representation in London, New Delhi, Cairo, and Accra became a (contested) strategy of the relevant nationalist parties; and into the period 1960-64, when all four countries gained flag independence and activists became increasingly disillusioned with the possibilities of transnational action in a Cold War context. Specific ideas about information, knowledge production, and publicity emerged from carrying out anticolonial work around the edges of an increasingly oppressive colonial state. These ideas responded to and shaped pan-African and Afro-Asian discourses, and informed better-documented moments of global activism in the following decades. Looking in at global anticolonial ‘hubs’ and ‘moments’ from the perspective of interested actors at their edges, the thesis demonstrates that not only did these activists do the labour of connecting up decolonisations – they also co-authored the narrative that decolonisation was global.


Location:
Sala del Torrino , Villa Salviati

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Examiner:
Lucy Riall (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)
Robert Skinner (University of Bristol)
Jan-Bart Gewald (Leiden University)

Contact:
Miriam Felicia Curci - Send a mail

Supervisor:
Corinna Unger (EUI - HEC)

Defendant:
Ismay Milford (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)

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