Trajectories of Decolonization: Elites and the Transformation from the Colonial to the Postcolonial

Trajectories of Decolonization: Elites and the Transformation from the Colonial to the Postcolonial

Jost Dülffer (Universität zu Köln) und Marc Frey (Jacobs University Bremen) Sponsored by: University of Cologne, Jacobs University Bremen, Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Association of Friends and Supporters of the University of Cologne, German Historical Institute Paris, German Historical Institute London, German Historical Institute Washington, D.C., Commission for the History of International Relations
Universität zu Köln
Vom - Bis
09.10.2008 - 11.10.2008
Marc Frey

The study of European decolonization in Africa and Asia is not a new field of historical enquiry. There are good reasons to suggest that it emerged almost simultaneously with the momentous developments leading up to the establishment of newly independent countries in the Southern hemisphere. However, in the last ten years, the study of decolonization has evolved into one of the most dynamic and thought-provoking areas of research, both in terms of empirical findings as well as in regard to theoretical and methodological diversity. Given the magnitude of the epochal changes and the prominent place decolonization occupies in the history of the twentieth century, it is appropriate, and indeed, indispensable, to both consider the results of recent scholarship in a comparative perspective, and to move forward to novel fields of enquiry.

It is sufficient here to name but a few of the fascinating trends visible in contemporary decolonization studies: the appropriation of ‘subaltern’ perspectives by imperial historians; the fruitful integration of ‘orientalist’ as well as post-modern approaches into political, social, economic and cultural history; and a general understanding of the importance to perceive decolonization not simply as a transfer of power but as a multi-layered process of social, economic, cultural, and political transformation. Last but not least, studies of decolonization are beginning to conceive of this transformation as not simply a phenomenon pertinent to African and Asian societies. It is now increasingly regarded as a process which equally affected European societies, not only in terms of international relations, but also in terms of domestic politics, questions of identity and social relations.

‘Modernization’ was a widely accepted concept and a vision of the time. ‘Modernization’ operated on many levels, ranging from the local to the global, and it was propagated by very different actors: by village leaders throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia; by nationalists who framed their vision of the nation state in modernist concepts and language; by Europeans who transformed discredited notions of the ‘civilizing mission’ into European-defined concepts of modernity; and by Cold War actors who competed for sympathies and allegiances in the emerging ‘Third World’. ‘Modernization’ meant organization, planning, social engineering, the destruction of ‘tradition’ and ‘nation building’. ‘Modernization’ had multiple meanings which need to be explored from a comparative perspective.

Within this matrix of historical analysis, emphasis will be put on the emergence of elites, their interactions and their differentiation over time.

- Elites in colonial contexts: Composition, Aims, Strategies and Change over Time Interaction of colonial and metropolitan elites: efforts and constraints of nation building
- Elites and the post-colonial state
- “Proconsuls” and nation builders
- Military elites in the decolonization process and beyond
- Economic elites: Renegotiating the market space from the local to the global
- Elites and subaltern groups

For further questions, please contact Marc Frey at



10:00 Words of Welcome
Jost Dülffer and Marc Frey

Hans-Peter Ullmann (Vice-Dean, Faculty of Arts), University of Cologne
Robert Frank (President, Commission of the History of International Relations) Université de Paris I, Panthéon Sorbonne
Andreas Gestrich (Director), German Historical Institute, London

Jost Dülffer and Marc Frey

10:30 Panel I: Indigenous Elites in Asia and the Middle East – Old and New
Chair: Dietmar Rothermund, University of Heidelberg

Southeast Asian Elites and the Construction of the ‘Nation’
Paul Kratoska, National University of Singapore

Nationalism, Socialism, Tribalism: the emergence of rural elites in Baathist Syria
Katharina Lange, Center for Modern Oriental Studies Berlin

Nehru - the ambiguities of a colonial inheritance
Judith Brown, University of Oxford

14:30 Panel II: Metropolitan Elites and the End of Empire
Chair: Robert Frank, Université de Paris I, Panthéon Sorbonne

It was not displeasing to be thus assured that I, too, was decolonizable: European Colonials and the End of Empire in Comparative Context
Elizabeth Buettner, York University

Dutch Elites and the End of Empire
Marc Frey, Jacobs University Bremen

French Elites and the wave of decolonization around 1960
Daniel Mollenhauer, Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich

17:00 Keynote Speech
Alternatives to Nationalism: The Political Imagination of Elites in French West Africa, 1945-1960
Frederick Cooper, New York University


09:30 Panel III: Metropolitan Elites and the End of Empire II
Chair: Jost Dülffer, University of Cologne

French Elites and the Decolonization of Indochina
Hugues Tertrais, Université de Paris 1 - Panthéon-Sorbonne

Verwoerdian Apartheid and African political elites in South Africa, 1950-1968
Christoph Marx, University of Duisburg-Essen

11:15 Panel IV: Military-Administrative Elites
Chair: Anja Kruke, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Bonn

South Asian Military Elites in Comparison: Pakistan and India
Manjeet S Pardesi, University of Indiana, Bloomington

Intelligence Providers and the Fabric of the Late Colonial State
Martin Thomas, University of Exeter

Drivers of Change: Military-civilian elite units and the search for ‚modern men’ in the context of colonial wars during the 1950s
Stephan Malinowski, Humboldt University Berlin

15:00 Panel V: Indigenous Elites in Africa – Old and New
Chair: Margit Szöllösi-Janze, University of Cologne

Chieftaincies and chiefs in northern Namibia: Intermediaries of Power between Traditionalism, Modernisation and Democratisation
Michael Bollig, University of Cologne

Parcours de l’instituteur sénégalais de la post-colonie : vers une sortie de l’élite ?
Ousseynou Faye, Université C.A Diop, Dakar

Sekou Touré and the Management of Elites in Guinea
Mairi S. MacDonald, University of Toronto

Julius Nyerere and the Project of African Socialism
Andreas Eckert, Humboldt University Berlin


09:45 Panel VI: Economic elites: Renegotiating the market space from the local to the global
Chair: Corinna Unger, German Historical Institute, Washington

Liverpool business elites and the end of empire
Nicholas White, Liverpool John Moores University

Emerging business elite in newly independent Indonesia
J. Thomas Lindblad, University of Leiden

11:15 Panel VII: Transnational Elites and Decolonization
Chair: Jakob Vogel, University of Cologne

The United Nations and Decolonization
William Roger Louis, University of Texas, Austin

International Organizations and their Impact on new Elites during the Period of Independence
Daniel Maul, University of Giessen

14:30 Panel VIII: The Cold War and Elites of the Third World
Chair: Benedikt Stuchtey, German Historical Institute, London

The Soviet Union and the Socialist camp: Elite formation for the Third World
Andreas Hilger, University of Hamburg

United States, decolonization and the education of Third World elites
Corinna Unger, German Historical Institute Washington, DC

U.S. elites and the decolonization of South- and Southeast Asia
Robert J. McMahon, Ohio State University Columbus

16:45 Roundtable Discussion
Jost Dülffer, University of Cologne
Dietmar Rothermund, University of Heidelberg


Marc Frey

Jacobs University Bremen
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