History Department, University of Exeter
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From decolonization without independence to the imperialism of country music, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
In October 1945, the United Nations began its official existence when the five permanent members of the new Security Council and a majority of other signatories ratified the Charter. That same month, Aimé Césaire, from colonial Martinique, and Léopold Sédar Senghor, from colonial Senegal, were elected as deputies to a new Constitutive Assembly in Paris. This Assembly would draft France’s constitution for a Fourth Republic, following the country’s wartime occupation by Germany and the Vichy state’s collaboration with the Nazi regime.
In January 1946, the first session of the UN General Assembly (GA) convened in London. Its inaugural agenda included a set of global issues: the discovery of atomic energy; the extradition and punishment of war criminals; the problem of refugees and displaced peoples; genocide; the establishment of an International Court of Justice; economic reconstruction projects for member countries devastated by the war; armament regulation; the drafting of an international declaration on fundamental human rights and freedoms; and the creation of a future World Health Organization. In brief, it undertook to outline the shape of the post‑war world. [continue reading]
Remembering Tracey Banivanua Mar
Tony Birch, Gary Foley and Kimberley Kruger
The decade beginning with the election of the John Howard-led conservative government in 1996 was one of the more tumultuous in Australian history with regard to race relations generally and the Aboriginal struggle specifically. Howard, who cut his bigoted teeth on disparaging Vietnamese refugees in the 1980s, fired the first shots of what would become known as the History Wars in 1996, during his Playford lecture in Adelaide. It was on the Adelaide stage that Howard projected his ‘relaxed and comfortable’ view of colonial history, a position that refused the collective responsibility for the attempted extermination of Aboriginal people in Australia over two hundred years. In the following year, Howard further flamed the fires of populist racism when he spat and spluttered and harangued members of ‘the Stolen Generations’ at a gathering in Melbourne, following the release of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Bringing Them Home report.
Teaching in the academy during the decade of the History Wars was both an invigorating and confronting experience. We were faced with a cohort of overwhelmingly young and white middle-class students, many of whom knew little or nothing of the blood washed from the hands of their forebears. Some of those young people responded with a level of maturity beyond their years, while others, when faced with the realities of colonial violence, resorted to hostility and denial. As teachers and thinkers working in the Humanities we were surrounded by a related challenge, a liberal-minded aristocracy; ‘Friends of the Aborigine’ with little will or political integrity when it came to taking on the forces of right-wing politics. Into this cauldron strode the young and slightly built Tracey Banivanua Mar. [continue reading]
What Did Britain Ever Do For India?
“I graduated from the first Engineering College in Kerala founded by a British Major T H Mathewman in 1939. Sashi Tharoor, you have mentioned Britain owing reparation to India. But what about all the skills in engineering and manufacturing India acquired, the administrative and democratic processes it inherited, the infrastructure left behind and most of all, the rapid education of the Indian people of which you are an excellent and outstanding example? Surely, no one can put a price on these intangible values that were gained during the British rule in India, and propelled the country to its present position as one of the leading countries in the world?”
What New Declassifications Reveal about the 1953 Coup in Iran
The US State Department recently released a volume of declassified documents on 1953 Iranian coup. The documents shed lights on how the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had planned and implemented Operation TPAJAX, which brought down Muhammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, in 1953. The papers also chronicle the US fear of growing influence of communists and Islamists in post-War Iran, particularly the sway of Tudeh Party.
The US State Department recently released a volume of declassified documents on 1953 Iranian coup. The documents shed lights on how the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had planned and implemented Operation TPAJAX, which brought down Muhammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, in 1953. The papers also chronicle the US fear of growing influence of communists and Islamists in post-War Iran, particularly the sway of Tudeh Party. [continue reading]
Countrypolitan Nationalism: Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow’s Audiopolitics of Empire
Matthew D. Linton
In his 2015 book Noise Uprising: The Audiopolitics of a World Musical Revolution, Michael Denning explores the musical revolution that took place in port cities ranging from Havana to Jakarta between 1925 and 1931. Facilitated by the inexpensive mass production of shellac records, new genres of music like jazz, samba, and kroncong sprouted up as old musical forms were translated, fused, and transported across a world united by water. This was not merely an artistic revolution, however. They were also “fundamental to the extraordinary social, political, and cultural revolution that was decolonization.” This audiopolitics of revolution, as Denning calls it, gave voice to subaltern peoples languishing under Western colonialism as it transformed colonized and colonizing ears to favor vernacular music. It was an important first step to territorial decolonization. “[T]his noise uprising was prophetic,” Denning argues, “it not only preceded but prepared the way for the decolonization of legislatures and literatures.”
American country music presents a problem for Denning. On the one hand, it was – with jazz – a major part of American vernacular music. Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family recorded hit records in Bristol, Tennessee, bringing the “hillbilly” music of Appalachia a national audience. On the other hand, neither country musicians nor Bristol fit seamlessly into Denning’s narrative. While economically poor, the founding generation of country musicians was not colonized like Denning’s Indonesian kroncong musicians or Hawaiian hula singers. Bristol is also not a port city and therefore not part of the international circulations of goods and peoples that took place in Havana or New Orleans. [continue reading]
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