P055 – African Contestations and Transnational Linkages: the Internationalization of African Mobilisation and The Struggle against Empire
9 July, 16:00 – 17:30

Vasile Iolanda / Centro de Estudos Sociais (CES), Universidade de Coimbra


Historiographies of decolonization in Africa have been reductive in at least two ways. First, imperial perspectives seem to reify the geopolitical solidity of the Empire, paying little attention to connections and networks that go beyond its policed boundaries. Second, histories focused on liberation movements and their struggle for the nation alone often forget that such claims have been forged in a connected world, in which transnational linkages were instrumental in shaping the nature of political mobilisation. This panel seeks to reassess the moment of decolonization by proposing a transnational perspective to African mobilisations against Empire. We seek contributions that put African contestations in the context of global decolonization, transnational political alliances, and networks of advocacy. Although we intend to focus on the post-1945 politics of decolonization, we will consider inquiries into earlier moments, in particular the interwar period. Contributors are encouraged to address any of the following indicative, but not exhaustive, issues: a) African unity, Pan-Africanism and the regionalization of political discontent; b) Non-alignment, Afro-Asian solidarities and the spirit of Bandung; c) Colored cosmopolitanisms and the international struggle against colonial racism; d) African mobilisations in or targeting international organizations (League of Nations, United Nations, etc.); e) Transnational networks of political activism/advocacy, in Africa and beyond;

Histórias da descolonização Africana têm sido redutoras em pelo menos dois aspectos. Primeiro, perspectivas imperiais tendem a reificar a solidez geopolítica do Império, ignorando conexões e redes que possam ter ido além de suas fronteiras. Segundo, histórias focadas apenas em movimentos de libertação e sua luta pela nação tendem a esquecer que essas demandas se originaram em um mundo conectado, no qual ligações transnacionais foram instrumentais em delinear as formas de mobilização política. Este painel procura reavaliar o momento da descolonização, propondo uma perspectiva transnacional sobre as mobilizações africanas contra o Império. Procuramos contribuições que coloquem contestações africanas no contexto da descolonização global, alianças políticas transnacionais, e redes de pressão. Ainda que busquemos priorizar a política de descolonização no pós-1945, consideraremos trabalhos sobre momentos anteriores, sobretudo o período entre-guerras. Participantes são encorajados a explorar qualquer das seguintes questões indicativas, porém não exaustivas: a) Unidade africana, Pan-Africanismo e a regionalização do descontentamento político; b) Não-Alinhados, Solidariedades Afro-Asiáticas e o espírito de Bandung; c) Cosmopolitismos de cor e a luta internacional contra o racismo colonial; d) Mobilizações africanas nas ou direccionadas a organizações internacionais (Sociedade das Nações, Nações Unidas, etc.); e) Redes transnacionais de activismo ou pressão, em África e além.

Paper 1

Vasile Iolanda / Centro de Estudos Sociais

Decolonizing History: Regional Coalitions in Southern Africa (1961-1990)

Most of the readings of the nationalist struggles in Southern Africa place the participant states and their regional interests outside of history, or completely dependent or coordinated by Western interests and needs. Nevertheless, a broader look at the matter show a web of regional networks that not discard western interests, but ally against it in a constant and joint effort.
This paper seeks to look at the Mulungusi Club, Front Line States and the Constelation of Southern African States, problematizing their position as common front line states and economic unions against colonialism and apartheid. The genealogy of their formation, starting with smaller groupings, proves the transnational character of these networks mobilization in their struggle against colonialism, racism, as well as their political activism. Our lines of inquiry will follow the central Southern African agenda as stated by the Lusaka Manifesto and look the plural character of their members and their mobility guided by a series of, at certain points, conflicting views and interests.
This further look on the externalization of the national strategies, on the destabilization processes and the two angled position of the liberation movements in Southern Africa could considerably decentralize the discussion from either a South African or Portuguese perspective, bring it to a more common ground for all its actors.

Paper 2

Skinner Kate / University of Birmingham

Education, Citizenship and the ‘sacred trust': School-Teacher Activism in Rural British Togoland

Seminal English-language studies of decolonisation highlighted the struggle of anti-colonial African nationalist movements to harness parochial rural voters to radical agendas that were conceived in the towns. This approach implied that grassroots activists mobilised instrumentalist logics amongst rural voters, promising that, if successful, a mass nationalist party could resolve the many local disputes which had arisen from the implementation of indirect rule, and secure resources for local development. This instrumentalist interpretation of rural affiliation to mass nationalist parties has been set against other studies which emphasise the role of missionary Christianity and indirect rule in stimulating new forms of identity and contributing to the rise of alternative ethno-nationalist (as opposed to territorial nationalist) projects. My research focuses on a cohort of rural political activists who were trained in missionary or church schools in the Ewe-speaking areas of the United Nations trust territory of British Togoland. I argue that, in spite of their exposure to German Protestant ideals of the Ewe as a volk, these individuals did not take up what John Peel calls ‘the cultural work’ of ‘ethnogenesis’. Instead, from their small villages, they deployed their literary skills in the construction of a transnational activist network, arguing at the United Nations for a new multi-ethnic nation-state, and initiating local debate on alternative forms of citizenship.

Paper 3

Sena Martins Bruno / Centro de Estudos Sociais

Liberation Wars in the Context of Southern Africa

One of the dominating images of Southern Africa is that of violent conflicts marking the scene since the independencies from colonial rule. The recent discovery of secret documents attesting the alliance between apartheid South Africa, racist Rhodesia and colonial-fascist Portugal forces a reappraisal of many of the conflicts that have been interpreted as civil unrest – including civil wars – affecting Southern Africa. The roots for much of this violence should be seen through a particular moment in time: the constitution and signing of a white alliance in Southern Africa, code-named Alcora Exercise. Indeed, the political project at the core of the Alcora aimed at perpetuating the minority regimes in the region. Following this line of analysis, this alliance can be interpreted as an imperial reaction to the nationalist wave that crossed Africa in the 1960s. It was signed between high representatives from those white minority-ruled states to keep control of the southern part of the continent, thus constituting a competing political project to African liberation movements. A critical approach to the (re)construction of national memories is then crucial to understand the roots of present day social and political crisis in Southern Africa, as well as to recognise how important confidential documentation – such as the still little-known Alcora Exercise – was central for the maintenance of a white hegemony in this region until the very end of the 20th century.

Paper 4

Kaiser Daniel / Goethe University Frankfurt

Transnational Mobilization of Anticolonial Resistance in Mozambique

Informal transnational networks played a major role in almost all African liberation struggles, most of the times established around universities in the “metropole(s)” and spanning not only the “third” world. By focusing on the case of Frelimo in Mozambique, I analyze how transnational social spaces of activism evolved around an international community of liberation fighters and assess their importance for the formation, evolution and strategic direction of the “national” liberation movement. Drawing on theories from social movement studies, I will trace the process of socialization of Frelimo’s ruling elite in transnational networks and the impact it had on the movement’s resource mobilization. The analysis shows how a certain habitus and various sorts of capital gained as assimilados in the colonial society enabled them to get access to the transnational field in the first place. Their socialization in transnational networks later enabled them to mobilize support by various international actors ranging from (communist) states and international organizations to non-state actors (liberation movements, religious groups, the Ford Foundation, student solidarity movements etc.). Eventually, transnational socialization and mobilization brought them into contested leading positions inside the movement. The paper is based on archival research in Maputo, Berlin and Lisbon, as well as biographical material and interviews with former Frelimo leaders and combatants.

Paper 5

Konieczna Anna / Sciences Po Paris

La France, l’ANC et les solidarités transnationales (1960-74)

L’objectif de cette communication serait de présenter l’histoire du premier mouvement anti-apartheid français, c’est-à-dire des organisations engagées dans la lutte contre le régime sud-africain avant 1974, l’année qui était jusqu’alors considérée dans l’historiographie comme le point de départ des activités anti-apartheid en France. Dès les années 1950, la lutte anti-apartheid est menée en France par trois types d’organisations : a) de conscience noire (p.ex Présence africaine, FEANF) ; b) de la défense des droits de l’homme et c) religieuses. En outre, on voit naître une plateforme de coordination, telle que le Comité de liaison contre l’apartheid, créé en 1963. Au delà d’une liste des organisations, il s’agirait d’étudier les connexions entre les réseaux impériaux français et britanniques, et ceci à deux niveaux d’analyse. Sur le plan pratique, cette communication démontrerait l’influence des conférences pan-africaines sur
les organisations françaises et le rôle joué par le MAA britannique et l’ANC dans la création du Comité de liaison français. Sur le plan discursif, elle analyserait l’appropriation de l’argumentation anti-coloniale par le mouvement sud-africain. En présentant l’apartheid comme l’émanation du colonialisme et l’Afrique du Sud comme partie de l’« alliance impie », d’un « empire austral », réunissant la Rhodésie et les colonies portugaises, l’ANC a pu ainsi mobiliser les intellectuels et les activistes français dévoués à la cause anti-coloniale.

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