P163 – Cosmopolitanism out of Revolution: Africa’s positionality and International Solidarities
9 July, 09:00-10:30

Fila-Bakabadio Sarah / Université de Cergy-Pontoise / Mondes Américains (EHESS)


From 19th century pan African leaders to Latin American activists like Che Guevara, Africa has regularly been a place where revolutionary ideas and ideals ranging from democratic to Communist-oriented ideologies were tested, expanded and even invented. Activists’ individual and collective trajectories turned Africa into a place where they could connect and sometimes shape political, class or racial solidarities.
This panel interrogates how international revolutionary connections have turned the continent into a pivotal space to invent protest strategies at a global scale.
It considers three aspects:
1. First, it discusses Africa’s positionality in revolutionary networks and examines why the continent gained a specific meaning as a place where such solidarities could emerge.
2. Second, It explores the tension between global and local to understand how activists developed “jeux d’échelles” moving from cities to regions to the transnational to initiate or spread mobilization. A special emphasis will be put on cities like Algiers or Dakar which, from the 1960s to the 1970s were at the crossroads of various revolutionary movements.
3. Lastly, this panel opens to a discussion on Africa as a “cosmopolitan space” for activists. It examines how their travels in and out of Africa as much as the circulation of revolutionary ideas, documents or images turned the continent into a place of encounter where they could explore political and theoretical differences and commonalities.


Paper 1

Palieraki Eugenia / Université de Cergy-Pontoise

Inventing the Third World. Revolutionary connections between Latin America and the Arab World in the 1960s and 1970s

Little is known up to now about the intimate links that have tied Latin American revolutionary movements and governments with Arab National Liberation Movements, despite the geographical distance and the profound cultural differences that separate Latin America from the Arab World. Hence, during the 1960s and the 1970s, numerous revolutionary activists from both sides of the Atlantic crossed several times the Ocean in order to assist revolutionary movements, attend military or intelligence training or find shelter when necessary. This paper provides insights into this concealed chapter of Latin American and Arab revolutionary movements Histories and echoes entangled History’s demand to “provincialize” national historiographies and, therefore, challenge methodological nationalism. My aim is to analyze revolutionary connections between Latin America and the Arab World (in particular, the Algerian and Palestinian cases) during the decolonization era as a formation process of a new political space and imaginary community, that is the Third World, which still, somewhat, defines the current left-wing governments’ foreign policy in Latin America.

Paper 2

Henderson Errol A. / Penn State University

Malcolm X, Afrocentrism and AFRICOM: From Revolutionary to Devolutionary Engagement of African Americans with Africa

Since the anti-colonial movement in Africa and the contemporaneous black power movement in the US, African Americans have sought to engage with the liberation struggles on the continent for inspiration, direction, and to seek the advice of participants and leaders on the viability of their own initiatives in the US. This was epitomized in Malcolm X’s adoption of many of the practices of the African liberation struggle to challenge US imperialism internationally and domestically. Through his travels in Africa and engagement with African anti-colonial leaders, activists, and organizations, Malcolm X’s evolved a thesis on black revolution in the US, which evolved from a static, unidimensional, religious based conceptualization into a dynamic, multidimensional, secular framework. Malcolm’s mature thesis viewed black revolution in the US as part of a “worldwide revolution”. Malcolm’s worldwide revolution proceeded in two stages: the first was a classic political (military) revolution against Western imperialism and was evident in the anti-colonial wars in Africa and throughout the colonized world; and the second was a cultural reawakening, galvanizing black Americans to mobilize against white supremacy in a black cultural revolution, which would be associated with a political revolution in the US. In radically transforming the most powerful country in the world, the black revolution in the US would serve as the culmination of the worldwide revolution.

Paper 3

Fila-Bakabadio Sarah / University of Cergy-Pontoise

The Black Panthers in Congo: Connecting Revolutions and Shaping a De-colonial Cosmopolitanism

In 1971, while the central committee of the Black Panther Party was torn by internal warfare, Eldridge Cleaver, then Minister of Information and head of the International section of the party, led a delegation to the capital city of the People’s Republic of Congo, Brazzaville, for a three-week trip. Three men and two women arrived in a country which “name was almost synonymous to Africa” (Kathleen Cleaver). After a year spent in Algiers, Eldridge Cleaver hoped to relocate the headquarters in sub-Saharan Africa while connecting to an African “socialist” revolution. To document what should have been a founding moment interconnecting revolutions, the filmmaker Bill Stephens edited Congo Oye: We have come Back, and Eldridge Cleaver published an essay, Revolution in the Congo. Both conjured up a black de-colonial and ‘insurgent cosmopolitanism’ (Santos 2006) uniting Communist-based protests from black people worldwide. This paper first explores how Congo epitomized American Afro-descendants’ imageries of Africa: from the fatherland to the continent of a new anti-imperialist struggle where they could start a global black revolution. Second, it confronts Africans’ and Black Panthers’ rhetoric of liberation and analyzes how both developed a discourse on decolonization and decoloniality.

Paper 4

Demissie Fassil / DePaul University

Amilcar Cabral, Revolution and Decolonization in Guinea Bissau

The article explores the political strategy devised by Amilcar Cabral and the PAIGC in mobilizing and organizing the peasantry as a necessary precondition for waging liberation struggle against Portuguese colonial rule. The paramount emphasis of social mobilization across a broad range of ethnic groups with differing social and political aspirations as well as their relations with Portuguese colonial rule provided the material basis for PAIGC to create the appropriate mobilizing techniques and organizational structures to launch the liberation struggle which culminated in the PAIGC to declaration of the independence of Guinea Bissau — a year before the collapse of Portuguese colonial empire in Africa. The article also draws lessons from the social mobilization and organization of the peasantry in Guinea Bissau and its relevance to the African context in the 21st century.

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