This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter

From teaching anticolonial archives to race and empire in Meiji Japan, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

On teaching anticolonial archives

Sara Salem
LSE Impact Blog

Last year was the first time I taught my course on anticolonial archives, The Anticolonial Archive: The Sociology of Empire and its Afterlives. It was an incredible eleven weeks, not least because of how inspiring the students were. The course felt like a journey, and because it was the first time I had taught it, everything was both new and open to change. The photograph below is a collection of some of the thinkers we talked about throughout this course as we explored colonial histories, anticolonial resistance, and decolonial futures. What does it mean to be free? And how can we practice freedom in the way we think, write and create? ‘Freedom is an elsewhere’ as Avery Gordon wrote – that elsewhere is also in our anticolonial pasts.

The course focuses on a selection of 20th century anti-colonial movements in order to explore the postcolonial moment that emerged after the end of European empire. We trace conversations anti-colonial movements had around nationalism and post-nationalism; capitalism and geopolitics; resistance, subjectivity and modernity; and global patterns of inequality. The course investigates these topics through various “anticolonial archives,” including theoretical texts by major anticolonial and postcolonial theorists, literature, archival data, posters, images, speeches, films, memoirs and private correspondence. [continue reading]

Black Lives Matter: New hidden slave trade sites in Wales revealed

BBC News

A former mansion in Swansea and the remains of a vicar’s home in a Denbighshire seaside resort now boast plaques with QR codes that can be scanned by smart phones. It is part of the HistoryPoints venture to help the public learn more about places of importance around them. The latest additions have been unveiled as past of Black History Month events. The first is the former home of copper baron Pascoe St Leger Grenfell at Kilvey Hill in Swansea. A well-respected member of the community, he was regarded as one of the architects of the city.

But his Maesteg House home was built with the proceeds of slave exploitation in Jamaica. He received the equivalent of £500,000 in compensation when slavery was abolished by Britain in 1833 when he was forced to free his captive workers. [continue reading]

Salvaging another piece of Black history

Brett Milano
Harvard Gazette

A crucial part of Black history sits hidden underwater amid the ruins of slave ships that sank during voyages. A group of marine archaeologists, known as Diving with a Purpose, has taken on the task of unearthing those artifacts and bringing the untold stories they represent to light.

Two of the group’s founders, Albert José Jones, professor emeritus, marine and environmental science, University of the District of Columbia, and Jay Haigler, a master scuba diver trainer, will speak Thursday evening in an online talk presented by the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture. They will trace the organization’s 15-year history, which has included expeditions in Africa, Brazil, Cuba, and Florida and recovering relics from slave ships as well as aircraft flown by African American pilots in World War II. [continue reading]

For music archivists, a contemporary dilemma: Should racist songs from our past be heard today?

Randall Roberts
Los Angeles Times

In mid-June, the Grammy-winning husband and wife producers Lance and April Ledbetter already had pallets stacked with finished copies of their new box set, “The Harry Smith B-Sides,” when they visited a farmers market stall near their home outside of Atlanta. They’d been in quarantine mode, but it was June in Georgia, so … peaches. By coincidence, their farmer-friend John was playing the 1952 collection “Anthology of American Folk Music,” compiled by the late New York experimental filmmaker, artist and collector Harry Smith. The Ledbetters’ four-CD, 84-track project was a kind of follow-up to that set.

Smith’s achievement sounds basic in the playlist age, but it was unprecedented at the time. He mixed raw pre-war Delta blues by Black artists with white Appalachian fiddle tunes that sounded more alike than different. Louisiana Cajun songs butted against the Carter Family’s harmonious country. Smith didn’t identify the race of the artists he included. [continue reading]

Race and Empire in Meiji Japan 

Ayelet Zohar
Asia-Pacfic Journal

The Meiji era (1868–1912) marks the initial process of Japan’s passage into modernity through Westernization, and its identification as a modern nation-state. As part of the process of identifying with European discourses, of altering its position in Asia, and of adopting Western models and values, Japan changed its political, social and cultural dispositions towards industrialization and capitalism, as well as towards nationalism and colonialism, cultural and artistic creation. 

Over the course of modernization, and of adapting various Western discourses on science and culture, Japan accepted several new approaches, especially those setting Europe apart and above from the rest of the world. As a result, Japan saw the rise of racial discourses, which eventually contributed to the state’s imperial expansion into Asia. [continue reading]