Mobility, Decolonization, and the Cold War: ‘Un-national’ Histories of African Migration
From the late 1940s to 1990 a unique historical constellation enabled Africans to venture abroad in order to gain knowledge and qualifications. This global constellation saw the Cold War, struggles for decolonization, and development intersecting to open up migration routes previously closed to the vast majority of Africans. Destinations now included countries of the socialist ‘East’ and the global ‘South’ like Egypt, China, or India.
Newly independent African states sent their citizens around the world to get vocational and academic training to support development. Liberation movements trained their freedom fighters in camps abroad. The list of Africans who temporarily became internationally mobile includes university students, school children, vocational trainees, trade unionists, party cadres, contract workers, soldiers, and freedom fighters. These groups were united by an understanding that their individual journeys were part of a wider struggle for ‘progress’, ‘decolonization’, and ‘development.’ This panel explores the diverse experiences of these groups, focusing on how African female and male migrants interpreted the world around them, seized opportunities, and pursued their interests.
Studying these Cold War entanglements enables us to place African history into a global perspective, as African actors travelled and left their footprints in the world. We come to understand what Luise White and Miles Larmer call ‘un-national histories’ of liberation, and how ‘un-national histories’ of decolonization and development were experienced from below. Finally, our focus on the African actors allows us to incorporate micro history into a macro story of regional and global economic and political processes that shaped the post-colonial African nation.
Time: Saturday, 30/06/2018, 8.30 - 10.30 am, 11 am - 1 pm
Venue: Hörsaalgebäude, HS 6
Eric Burton (University of Exeter, UK)
Marcia C. Schenck (Princeton University, USA)
Eric Burton (Universities of Leipzig and Vienna, Austria)
Constantin Katsakioris (University of Bayreuth)
Ismay Milford (European University Institute, Fiesole, Italy)
Hanna Hacker (University of Vienna, Austria)
Yuzhou Sun (University of Oxford, UK)
Holly Y. McGee (University of Cincinnati, USA)
Marcia C. Schenck (Humboldt University of Berlin)
Bars, Curtains & Pipelines: Decolonization, the Cold War, and Africans’ Clandestine Routes to Overseas Education, 1957-1965
As the process of African decolonization gained momentum in the late 1950s, education was the most promising avenue for upward social mobility – but in many territories, higher education and overseas scholarships were limited. In order to gain access to higher education, Africans forged new connections and capitalized on opportunities that opened up through the independence of neighbouring countries, networks of anti-imperialist activism, and global Cold War politics.
I propose three metaphors that help to explain different dimensions of African mobility during the Cold War: 1) bars, referring to limits that individuals encountered in their education and expectations of upward social mobility, 2) curtains, referring to larger political alliances, rivalries, and fault lines – most prominently the Iron Curtain, and 3) pipelines, i.e. routes that were established to circumvent the bars and undermine (and make use of) the curtains. Employing these three concepts as heuristic metaphors, this paper historicizes Africans’ Cold War journeys of education by highlighting how African actors established and used such pipelines and showing how authorities in different countries tried to come to terms with these clandestine routes. The presentation will discuss the emergence of new pipelines 1) from East Africa via North Africa to Eastern Europe in the late 1950s and early 1960s and 2) from Eastern Europe to Western Europe in the first half of the 1960s. I argue that Africans’ pipelines until the mid-1960s drew on transnational networks and often circumvented state control, helping the travellers to maximize their opportunities to gain access to education and/or to pursue wider political goals. This was less the case in the decades to follow, as non-state organizations in postcolonial states were marginalized and North-South mobility was becoming regulated more strictly, and effectively, by state authorities for the sake of controlling educational journeys and ideological transfers. The paper is based on archival materials (state and party archives) from Germany, Tanzania, and the United Kingdom as well as published memoirs.
The Federation of African Students in the Soviet Union in the 1960s
Founded in March 1962, the Federation of African Students in the Soviet Union (Federatsiia afrikanskikh studentov Sovetskogo soiuza, ‘FASSS’) was, until the end of 1968 when it fell apart, by far the most important – although not the only – political organization and ideological arena of the first cohorts of Black African students in the USSR. This paper will retrace the history of the FASSS in order to inquire, more broadly, into the political movement of the first postcolonial students’ generation and, more specifically, into the particularities of this movement in the Soviet context.
In the first part, I will discuss the role of the national students’ unions (Guinean, Ghanaian, Cameroonian etc.) and the first attempts to set up Pan-African organizations in Moscow and Kiev between 1959 and 1962. I will also examine the influence of the FEANF (Fédération des étudiants d’Afrique noire en France) and the role that played the Communist Youth League (Komsomol) of the USSR in the creation of the FASSS. In the second part of the paper, I will retrace the political activity and the ideological battles of the FASSS. Interventions of African delegates in international conferences, debates with Komsomol organizers, resolutions of the congresses of the FASSS, and other documents will constitute the bulk of the sources. Petitions and anti-Soviet protests will also occupy a central place in the paper. In many respects, the FASSS constituted a unique political undertaking. Born in the juncture of decolonization and of the globalization of the Cold War, it brought together African militants and unions not only from French or English-speaking countries, as the FEANF and the WASU had done before, but from all over Black Africa. Inside the motherland of socialism and ‘democratic centralism’, the FASSS constituted an island of open discussions and rather democratic politics. Its brief history was marked both by African political struggles and by ideological conflicts which reflected African agendas as well as the international situation. The FASSS engaged in conflicts both with the African governments and with the Soviet authorities and paid the price. This paper intends to assess the national and Pan-African, Soviet, and international dimensions in order to make sense of the history of the FASSS.
Radio Freedom: Training Broadcasters from East and Central Africa 1955-65
As colonial administrators and anticolonial leaders in Anglophone East and Central Africa sought to ‘Africanize’ the civil service from the mid-1950s, in preparation for self-government and independence, one area of focus for technical training was broadcasting. Drawing on source material from the archives of liberation groups and scholarship providers, this paper uses the field of broadcasting to understand how short training courses abroad became embroiled in the intersection of decolonization, the Cold War, and pan-African politics. As radio stations began to operate in independent African states such as Egypt and Ghana, political parties in territories still under colonial rule, such as the United Independence Party of Northern Rhodesia, took up opportunities to train party members abroad while simultaneously using these anticolonial radio stations to publicize party work. This worked to frustrate efforts by colonial administrators to recruit African staff to colony-managed and heavily censored broadcasters, such as the Federal Broadcasting Company, and to train African broadcasters in Britain through British Council scholarships. However, as the paper explores, broadcasters placed in Cairo, Accra, or Dar es Salaam felt sometimes cut off from party activity at home, and, in addition, discovered that these ‘independent’ radio stations did not always offer the intellectual freedoms that they had hoped would come with their newfound mobility. Straddling the years of the obtainment of self-government in the region, the paper uses broadcasting training to ask how individuals preparing to take up government positions envisaged their role in the continent and world they were moving in.
Transnational Assemblages, Pan-African Activism, and Cold War Politics in the 1960s, or, Is There a Feminist Post-Colonial Archive in Austria?
A first phase of development discourse as well as pro-active foreign politics towards countries on the African continent unfolded in post-War, ‘neutral’ Austria against the backdrop of decolonization. The policy of providing educational aid to trainees and students from African ‘underdeveloped countries’ in the first place was supported by trade unionists, social democrats, and communist activists. African students and other educational migrants in Austria gathered in networks, built associations, and organized quite actively. Their collective articulation collided with the racism inherent in the State, in the political parties, their media, and everyday experience. Black presence uncovered hegemonic Whiteness in a specific way. The dominant orientation of domestic as well as foreign politics was – in addition to and interlocking with their racism – essentially anti-communist. The Austrian Special Branch, itself heavily involved in a domestic political scandal, surveyed Black educational migrants meticulously and policed and denounced their (alleged) close relations with ‘communist powers’, the GDR and the USSR. Transnationally entangled Black (and) African political activism, White (and) Austrian racism, nationalism, as well as, not least, sexism, all culminated at the congress of the ‘Union of African Students in Europe’ in Moscow in March 1964. The appearance of a female political speaker of the ‘Pan-African Student Union in Austria’ soon was to lead to the deportation of several (Nigerian, Kenyan, and other) students from Austria and to international diplomatic response. My paper will discuss these entangled histories – with an emphasis on the agency of several involved women – and thereby focus on intersections between racism and sexism, antiracism and (proto-) feminism, and on the ‘archive’, i.e., the construction and subversion of hegemonic memories.
Vision of a Maoist Angola Foreclosed: Viriato Da Cruz and His Exiled Years in China
China’s involvement in late colonial Angola has been overwhelmingly portrayed as militarily supporting one of the three competing independence movements. However, Maoism as an ideology had more enduring impacts on Angolan elites who were struggling to define Angolan nationalism. Among them was Viriato da Cruz, an Angolan poet and nationalist who served as the Secretary-General of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) between 1962-1964. Due to his marginalized power in the party, Viriato started his exiled life in the People’s Republic of China from 1966 until his death in 1973. Using Viriato’s biographical and other writings, this article explores his intellectual trajectory from the MPLA leader to exiled nationalist. In so doing, it investigates the role of individual writing in understanding the postcolonial political history of Africa. This paper tries to address the following research questions: 1) How to historically contextualize Viriato’s inclination towards Mao’s China in the context of decolonizing Angola? 2) How did he experience an exiled life in China and how did it reflect the Chinese political environment? While postcolonial African history is often portrayed as an on-going state-building process, the historical interaction between context and individuals provides unique insights into the social domain. For someone like Viriato da Cruz who grew up in Angola, participated in politics in Portugal and France, then settled in China, his life guides us through a transnational journey in African history, filled with complexity and contingency.
Holly Y. McGee
‘No Mercy’ on Native Women: Fact, Slander, and a Banished Mother in Basutoland
When National Party (NP) administrators in the Cape described Elizabeth Mafeking as ‘the most dangerous threat to native administration’ in 1959, it was not a wild exaggeration, rather, an apt description of her influence within trade union circles in the Cape Province. Mafeking – a trade union president and married mother of eleven children – had recently defied the Apartheid by escaping South Africa and airing the country’s dirty laundry to an avid international audience. Apartheid architects determined to neutralize Mafeking’s growing influence via banning – one of the most effective tools against political dissent. For five long weeks after receiving the banning order, however, Elizabeth Mafeking and her supporters waged a public war of conscience against the government dictate that played out in the pages of national and international periodicals. This paper explores the intricacies of this protracted battle as portrayed in four of the leading South African newspapers of the era, and in doing so shines a new light on the phenomenon of banning that centralizes gender as a category of analysis. The Mafeking Affair created a steep learning curve for South African officials who, for the first time, began to realize organized African men weren’t the only individuals who posed a potential threat. This paper demonstrates the most valuable lesson the NP learned in its battle with Elizabeth Mafeking was that in order to secure Apartheid, there could be no mercy on native women.
Marcia C. Schenck
‘Un-National’ Histories of African Migration: the Case of Angolan and Mozambican Education and Labour Migration During the Cold War
It is impossible to tell Angolan and Mozambican post-colonial history without taking into account the many ways in which the decolonization and the nation-building processes were entangled with the southern African region and a global socialist world beyond. The labour and education migration that brought thousands of young Angolans and Mozambicans to East Germany (GDR) to work and train in factories and lecture halls after independence until 1990 is a case in point, illustrating the educational, economic, and political links between socialist countries. Shifting our attention away from the theatres of war, we come to see the Cold War moment also as enabling new geopolitical connections between ‘brother states’ that opened up new avenues away from the former colonizer. Based on 268 life histories collected in Angola and Mozambique in 2014/5, and triangulated with archival material from various archives in both countries, Germany and Portugal, this paper examines the memories about the migration of those Angolan and Mozambican migrants who returned back home. Following individual life histories of ordinary Luso-youth uniquely positions us to understand the role that decolonization and mobility played for these young citizens as they seek to contribute to the building of their even younger home nations. We come to see the hopes and dreams that lead them to relocate abroad, the challenges and successes they faced while in the GDR and after their return home, and to understand how they evaluate the socialist project two decades after its demise.