From how empire operates to the Black Panther’s anti-colonial Pan-Africanism, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
Viewpoint: How do you understand imperialism? Is it still a useful concept? What analytical frameworks do you see as most adequate for understanding relations of force at the international level?
Laleh Khalili: I suppose most crudely I understand modern imperialism as the will to make the world safe for the movement of capital (dominated especially by capitalists based in the United States and its allied states), by force of arms if necessary. Although we hear a lot about capital having no home state, I do still think that there are forms of imperial power emanating from North Atlantic, and the United States more specifically, that places like China still have a ways to go to match. The legal infrastructures necessary for business, rules of trade and accounting, frameworks for commerce and investment, and pathways of finance are largely defined by institutions established in the North Atlantic. These institutions are defended through courts of arbitration, punitive financial measures, and various other forms of hegemonic control. But in the last instance, the United States has never been hesitant about the use of force where it has seen its broader interests – and the interests of capital – endangered. [continue reading]
It is a place New Zealand prime ministers and politicians have feared to tread. The commemorative ceremony at Waitangi on New Zealand’s national day – which marks the signing of the treaty between the British crown and the country’s largest tribe, Ngāpuhi, in 1840 – has become synonymous with protest and acrimony. In 2016 the prime minister at the time, John Key, was a no-show due to security concerns over protesters. His successor, Bill English, followed suit in 2017, after the government minister Steven Joyce was hit with a sex toy the year before.
As far back as 1990, Queen Elizabeth was greeted with a mixture of cheering and boos, as well as having a black T-shirt thrown at her by a young Māori woman. But this year, with Labour’s Jacinda Ardern at the helm, change is afoot in Northland, with an altogether different scene unfolding. Ardern, who announced she was pregnant to a surprised nation three weeks ago, was greeted by a staunch Māori activist, Titewhai Harawira, dressed in white. Harawira reached from her wheelchair for the prime minister’s hand to escort her on to treaty grounds; the same woman who reduced the then Labour leader, Helen Clark to tears with harsh words on Waitangi Day in 1998. [continue reading]
Keisha N. Blain
Black History Month is an opportunity to reflect on the historical contributions of black people in the United States. Too often, however, this history focuses on black men, sidelining black women and diminishing their contributions. This is true in mainstream narratives of black nationalist movements in the United States. These narratives almost always highlight the experiences of a handful of black nationalist men, including Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan. Contrary to popular conceptions, women were also instrumental to the spread and articulation of black nationalism – the political view that people of African descent constitute a separate group on the basis of their distinct culture, shared history and experiences.
As I demonstrate in my new book, “Set the World on Fire,” black nationalist movements would have all but disappeared were it not for women. What’s more, these women laid the groundwork for the generation of black activists who came of age during the civil rights-black power era. In the 1960s, many black activists – including Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Robert F. Williams, Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael – drew on these women’s ideas and political strategies. So, let’s use this Black History Month to begin to set the record straight. [continue reading]
Four hundred years after it was written, a lost and supposedly cursed Golden Age novel chronicling the splendour, adventure and violence of Spain’s imperial zenith has been published for the first time. Historia del Huérfano, or The Orphan’s Story, charts the progress of a 14-year-old Spaniard who leaves Granada and heads to the Americas to seek his fortune. Its hero ricochets around the Spanish empire, from the high-society fiestas of Lima to the mephitic mines of Potosí, and goes on to witness Sir Francis Drake’s attack on Puerto Rico and the sacking of Cádiz.
After romantic escapades and the odd shipwreck and run-in with pirates, the soldier-cum-missionary finally manages to embrace the calm of monastic life in the capital of viceregal Peru. “There’s an awful lot of travelling, but you do get a sense of what the viceroyalty of Peru was like from the inside and of the exchange of people and goods between Europe and America,” said Belinda Palacios, a Peruvian academic who spent two years editing the book back to life. [continue reading]
One of the unique things about the Black Panther is that he is one Black superhero who has to confront many of the problems that Black people confront daily. The Black Panther doesn’t just live in Africa, he also lives many of the real problems that Africa has faced and continues to face. Black Panther comics are filled with themes of Western imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism in Africa. These themes are especially prominent in the six episode cartoon series which was an adoption of Reginald Hudlin’s run of the comics.
In the comics Wakanda is the most technologically advanced country in the world because the people of Wakanda are able to utilize their country’s resources for their own benefit. Wakanda was the only African country never to be colonized or conquered, so it did not suffer through the ravages of the slave trade and colonialism which disrupted Africa’s development and, as Walter Rodney explained, underdeveloped Africa. Some have defended colonialism by arguing that colonization was a benefit to Africa because it introduced European technology, but this was not entirely the case. The technology that was introduced was utilized in the service of European domination in Africa. The vast majority of colonized Africans were exploited and impoverished, and they did not benefit from European technology in any significant way. [continue reading]