This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Claudia Jones

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From how colonial borders still influence the way academics study Africa to the transnational activism of Claudia Jones, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Colonial borders still influence how academics write about Africa

Abdi Latif Lahir

Africa is not a country—but a continent with one billion people, living in 55 different countries, and speaking more than 2,000 languages. Yet a relatively narrow coverage of Africa and its people exists not only in mainstream media, but as a new research paper shows, in academia as well. Virginia Tech University analyzed 20 years of research articles published in two major journals about African politics, namely African Affairs published by Oxford University and The Journal of Modern African Studies by Cambridge University.

The paper investigated whether by reading Anglophone scholarship on sub-Saharan politics between 1993 and 2013, one could actually learn more about the region’s political reality and complexity. In his paper, published this month, Ryan C. Briggs, an assistant professor at the department of political science, notes that studies around sub-Saharan Africa cluster heavily on a small number of wealthier, more populous, and English-speaking nations. [continue reading]

U.S. Stood By as Indonesia Killed a Half-Million People, Papers Show

Hannah Beach
New York Times

It was an anti-Communist blood bath of at least half a million Indonesians. And American officials watched it happen without raising any public objections, at times even applauding the forces behind the killing, according to newly declassified State Department files that show diplomats meticulously documenting the purge in 1965-66.

In one of the documentsreleased on Tuesday, an American political affairs counselor describes how Indonesian officials dealt with prisons overflowing with suspected members of the Indonesian Communist Party, known by the acronym P.K.I. “Many provinces appear to be successfully meeting this problem by executing their P.K.I. prisoners, or by killing them before they are captured,” said the cable sent in 1965 from the American Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, to the State Department. [continue reading]

Did the Russian Revolution Matter for Africa? (Part I)

Matt Swagler
Review of African Political Economy

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a shocking event: elected councils of workers, soldiers, and peasants had taken state power—without great violence—in a major world empire. At the root of the revolution was opposition to the slaughter and privations caused by World War I. The war represented the explosion of the economic and imperial competition between European rivals that had fueled the colonization of Africa in the decades prior. Accordingly, Germany’s colonies were divided as spoils among the Allied victors. Great Britain, France, Belgium, South Africa, and Portugal all gained territory in Africa, ostensibly under the supervision of the League of Nations.

The Bolshevik-led revolutionary government in Russia, however, had already moved in the opposite direction, immediately renouncing all claims to the former territories of the Russian empire, and four months later, fulfilling its promise to negotiate an end to the war with Germany. Following the subsequent defeat of Germany, areas of the former Russian empire under German occupation, such as the Baltic states, became independent. [continue reading]

Japanese Americans weren’t the only US citizens housed in camps

Naomi Gingold

Usually, when we talk about Japanese prison camps during World War II, the story centers around Japanese Americans. But there was actually another group whose story intertwines with the Japanese Americans’ during the war. Ron Moore knows this firsthand. At the age of 11, he moved with his family to Poston, Arizona in 1949.  “We moved into one of the barracks,” he says. Those barracks were at the Colorado River Relocation Center, which is known as the Poston internment camp.

But Ron Moore is not Japanese American — he’s Hopi. And when he and his family moved to Poston, it was four years after Japanese American prisoners were released from the camps. [continue reading]

Claudia Jones’s transnational radicalism

Kehinde Andrews
New Statesman

laudia Jones was born in the British Empire, on the island of Trinidad on 15 February 1915. As was the case with millions of families born in the Caribbean, her family had to migrate to find opportunities for work. Her family moved to New York, and it was in America that Jones became politicised. As a high school students she became of member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), before abandoning their incremental reform approach and joining the Communist Party to argue for revolutionary change. Her prominent activism in the CPUSA meant she was declared un-American and deported in 1955.

Rather than deport her to Trinidad, where the colonial governor thought “she may prove troublesome”, the authorities sent her to Britain. After all, her passport would have read “subject of the British Empire”. Jones is a reminder that the migration narrative in Britain needs a rethink. [continue reading]

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