Black women living in the French empire played a key role in the decolonial movements of the mid-twentieth century. Thinkers and activists, these women lived lives of commitment and risk that landed them in war zones and concentration camps and saw them declared enemies of the state. Annette K. Joseph-Gabriel mines published writings and untapped archives to reveal the anticolonialist endeavors of seven women. Though often overlooked today, Suzanne Césaire, Paulette Nardal, Eugénie Éboué-Tell, Jane Vialle, Andrée Blouin, Aoua Kéita, and Eslanda Robeson took part in a forceful transnational movement. Their activism and thought challenged France’s imperial system by shaping forms of citizenship that encouraged multiple cultural and racial identities. Expanding the possibilities of belonging beyond national and even Francophone borders, these women imagined new pan-African and pan-Caribbean identities informed by black feminist intellectual frameworks and practices. The visions they articulated also shifted the idea of citizenship itself, replacing a single form of collective identity and political participation with an expansive plurality of forms of belonging.
World War I gave colonial migrants and French women unprecedented access to the workplaces and nightlife of Paris. After the war they were expected to return without protest to their homes—either overseas or metropolitan. Neither group, however, was willing to be discarded.
Between the world wars, the mesmerizing capital of France’s colonial empire attracted denizens from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Paris became not merely their home but also a site for political engagement. Colonial Metropolis tells the story of the interactions and connections of these black colonial migrants and white feminists in the social, cultural, and political world of interwar Paris. It explores why and how both were denied certain rights, such as the vote, how they suffered from sensationalist depictions in popular culture, and how they pursued parity in ways that were often interpreted as politically subversive.
Recent scholarship has demonstrated that in the period from 1945 through to the late 1950s African American intellectuals re-oriented their activism from an internationalist and human rights framed agenda towards a domestically bound struggle. This article will contribute to this literature by mapping out a facet of African American intellectual engagement with the African diaspora during this period. Of particular focus will be African American reactions to the journal Présence Africaine and the conference sponsored by the journal in 1956, le Congrès des écrivains et artistes noirs. Iwill argue that the experiences of a select group of African American delegates to this Congrès served to emphasise the radically different objectives and strategies of nationalities within the African diaspora, thereby consolidating black American perceptions of themselves as first, and foremost, American. In interrogating this diasporan dimension of the period, this article will shed light on a neglected aspect of African American history and expand the intellectual and political boundaries of the black freedom struggle.
In Soundscapes of Liberation, Celeste Day Moore traces the popularization of African American music in postwar France, where it signaled new forms of power and protest. Moore surveys a wide range of musical genres, soundscapes, and media: the US military’s wartime records and radio programs; the French record industry’s catalogs of blues, jazz, and R&B recordings; the translations of jazz memoirs; a provincial choir specializing in spirituals; and US State Department-produced radio programs that broadcast jazz and gospel across the French empire. In each of these contexts, individual intermediaries such as educators, producers, writers, and radio deejays imbued African American music with new meaning, value, and political power. Their work resonated among diverse Francophone audiences and transformed the lives and labor of many African American musicians, who found financial and personal success as well as discrimination in France. By showing how the popularity of African American music was intertwined with contemporary structures of racism and imperialism, Moore demonstrates this music’s centrality to postwar France and the convergence of decolonization, the expanding globalized economy, the Cold War, and worldwide liberation movements.
In late Spring 2014, the nonprofit organization Creative Time commissioned artist Kara Walker to create her first large-scale public installation. Hosted in the industrial relics of the leg- endary Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, Walker’s A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby was as controversial as it was revered. The powerful presence of the installation, coupled with its immersion in historical consciousness, makes A Subtlety rich in educational value. This article engages in a comparative reading of A Subtlety in the light of female writers and thinkers from the Caribbean, but also incorporates some of the generative questions Walker’s installation has pro- voked my students to ask. I especially engage questions on how to unravel the mixed metaphors that make A Subtlety the artistic embodiment of the textured experience of the African diaspora, with its complex history, cultural hybridity and transnational ramifications. While Walker’s instal- lation seems to sustain its many layers of meanings through both form and content, the (mostly white, US-born) students in my class have responded to it in a range of critical ways that pointed especially to their emotional and critical response toward female Blackness, and reflections about the artist’s responsibility toward her intention. The article reflects on the inherent possibilities for teaching A Subtlety and other forms of what I consider “vulnerable art,” which at its best helps to channel our collective and personal discomfort in effective, healing ways.
Suzanne Césaire’s essays in Tropiques make an important intervention in imagining a new Martinican and ultimately Pan-Caribbean identity during World War II. This study examines Césaire’s joint politics and poetics of liberation in the context of dissidence in Martinique. A close reading of her essays alongside previously uncited personal correspondence reveals Haiti to be central to her vision for a Caribbean cultural renaissance after the death and destruction of the war.
This collection is an interdisciplinary effort drawing on the work of international scholars and political activists. It addresses key questions in the critique of Eurocentrism and racism regarding debates on the production and sedimentation of knowledge, historical narratives and memories in Europe and the Americas. By conceiving Eurocentrism as a paradigm of interpretation, and race as the key principle of the modern order, the authors bring the relation between knowledge and power to the centre of debate. The book invites to consider institutionalized violence as pervading the regulation of the heterogeneity of (post-)colonial territories and peoples, and to see the politics of knowledge production as a struggle for power seeking profound change. At the heart of this collective endeavour is the long history of international and domestic liberation politics and thought, as well as academic and political reaction through formulas of accommodation that re-centre the West.
In Inventing America, José Rabasa presents the view that Columbus’s historic act was not a discovery, and still less an encounter. Rather, he considers it the beginning of a process of inventing a New World in the sixteenth century European consciousness. The notion of America as a European invention challenges the popular conception of the New World as a natural entity to be discovered or understood, however imperfectly. This book aims to debunk complacency with the historic, geographic, and cartographic rudiments underlying our present picture of the world.
How do we ‘decolonise’ the field of International Relations? The aim to decolonise has become a widely discussed and mentioned subject across the social sciences and humanities. The article aims to discuss what ‘decolonisation’ might mean in the context of the field of International Relations.
This article, first given as a talk to a seminar of the Uganda Parliament in 2000, is a reflection on that aspect of the colonial political legacy that passes for common sense in the region of the African Great Lakes. The author takes a fresh look at recent events leading to civil war in Uganda (1981–6), Rwanda (1990–94) and eastern Congo (1997–.) The article contextualizes three issues: citizenship, civil society and political majorities and minorities as outcomes of the democratic process. To explore how notions of these issues have been changing over the past decade, the author examines the dilemma of a particular cultural group in the Great Lakes region—the Banyarwanda.