Mobility, Decolonization, and the Cold War: ‘Un-national’ Histories of African Migration

Mobility, Decolonization, and the Cold War: ‘Un-national’ Histories of African Migration

Eric Burton; Marcia C. Schenck
Vom - Bis
27.06.2018 - 30.06.2018
Eric Burton

Mobility, Decolonization, and the Cold War: ‘Un-national’ Histories of African Migration (Panel at VAD-Conference "African Connections" 2018)

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.

Eric Burton (University of Vienna),
Marcia C. Schenck (Princeton University),

All paper proposals (maximum 250 words) must be submitted by email directly to the panel convenors by 30 November 2017. Proposals will be provisionally accepted or rejected until 31 January 2018.



Eric Burton

Universität Wien
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