Journeys of education and struggle: Mobility in times of decolonization and the global Cold War

Journeys of education and struggle: Mobility in times of decolonization and the global Cold War

Stichproben - Vienna Journal of African Studies
Vom - Bis
01.06.2017 -
Burton, Eric

Following this journal’s previous issue on Sojourns along the way – narrative perspectives of movement, mobility and moments in between (Stichproben - Vienna Journal of African Studies 28/2015), an upcoming volume will investigate forms of mobility specific to the Cold War period. From the late 1940s to 1990, global Cold War rivalries overlapped with struggles for decolonization and development. For Africans, this historical constellation opened up new channels for venturing abroad in order to gain knowledge, qualifications and experiences. The destinations of these journeys were often the former metropoles, but also a number of other countries – including the socialist “East“, other states of the “South” like Egypt, China or India, as well as countries of the “West” that had no immediate history of colonial possessions. Liberation movements sent freedom fighters to training camps abroad and postcolonial African states invested in the academic and vocational qualification of citizens overseas to keep growing administrative and infrastructural apparatuses running.

While university students were most visible in these journeys of education, there were also other mobile groups of both civil and military character: soldiers, intelligence corps and freedom fighters; vocational trainees, trade unionists, party cadres, “contract workers” (the East European counterpart to the West European “guest workers”), and many more. These groups were disparate, but united by a common understanding that their individual journey was part of a wider struggle for “progress,” “decolonization” and “development”, terms that were filled with different understandings. These understandings were sometimes at odds with the powers that be. This applies especially to those who used mobility to escape the grip of authoritarian regimes.

Studying concrete structures, instances and individual trajectories of overseas education leads us to new insights what decolonization, the Cold War or development policies meant in practice. It enables us to see how young men and women interpreted the world, seized opportunities and pursued their interests at a time when regional dynamics were increasingly intermeshed with global economic and political processes. A focus on mobility complicates simple dichotomies of East vs. West and North vs. South and contributes to what Luise White and Miles Larmer call “un-national histories” of liberation, and, by extension, “un-national histories” of decolonization and development.

For the upcoming special issue, the interdisciplinary Vienna Journal of African Studies invites contributions on the topic of “Journeys of education and struggle”. Articles may follow individual trajectories, discuss institutional structures, or map collective experiences. They can be based on a variety of sources (archival sources, oral history, fictional texts, audiovisual documents etc.) and methods. Particularly welcome are contributions that address the following cross-cutting themes:

- Appropriations and transformations: Journeys and sojourns hold opportunities for the appropriation and transfer of ideas, goods, practices and attitudes. At the same time, the value of existing contacts and knowledge could be transformed, lost or rejected. During the period of the Cold War, ideology assumed an especially important role: several models of liberation, modernity, and socioeconomic systems competed with each other, and individuals might be supportive of authorities or confront them, using the models at hand. Why were certain ideas, ideologies and practices taken up, and others not? Which confrontations arose over which issues?

- Exclusion and counter-strategies: Movement has often been a means to achieve social upward mobility – but who could seize the new opportunities of the Cold War period, and who could not? Both in societies of origin as well as in the societies where one went, powerful exclusionary effects and discriminatory structures were at work, informed by (historically changing) migration politics and border regimes. How did individuals and groups deal with racism? In which way were both opportunities and experiences gendered? On a larger scale, how did these journeys of education reproduce class relations and other relations of inequality, and how did they challenge them? Which networks emerged?

- Routes, institutions and ruptures: While some instances of mobility were organized by state institutions, there were also routes that developed from clandestine networks or relations between non-state institutions, including unions, political parties, and liberation movements, but also private companies, foundations, missions and other organizations based on religious or ethnic categories. Which interests did state institutions and non-state institutions attach to the sending of individuals, and to what extent were their expectations fulfilled? How did changing contexts (e.g., regime changes, wars, economic booms and crises) affect strategies of institutions and individuals?

Language: English, French, German or Portuguese

Length: 6,000 - 8,000 words

Abstract: Please send your abstract, a short CV and, if applicable, a list of your publications to by 1 June 2017.

Manuscript: Deadline for the submission of the manuscript is 31 November 2017 after which contributions will be submitted to a double-blind peer-review process.



Eric Burton

Department of African Studies, University of Vienna

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