This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Putin-and-Bush-in-Texas-JEFF-MITCHELL-Reuters

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

From the US legacy of apartheid to Putin’s plot to get Texas to secede, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Xenophobia in South Africa: Historical Legacies of Exclusion and Violence

xenophobia is not a crime

Emily Bridger
History Department, University of Exeter

Over the past several weeks, a new wave of xenophobic violence has swept across South Africa, beginning in Durban and quickly spreading to Johannesburg and its surrounding townships. The targets are makwerekweres, a derogatory term used for foreigners, in reference to the “babble” they speak. They are Zimbabweans, Mozambicans, Nigerians, Somalis, Bangladeshis and other foreign nationals. Initial violence in Durban was sparked by the remarks of Goodwill Zwelithini, the king of South Africa’s largest ethnic group, the Zulus, who reportedly called on foreigners to “pack their bags and go back to their countries.”

In the following weeks, the violence claimed the lives of seven people and turned thousands more into refugees. Media images depicted scenes of terror, displacement and hatred: foreign-owned shops looted and ransacked; tent cities hastily assembled for refugees; foreigners boarding buses back to their home countries; and even the brutal stabbing of Mozambican Emmanuel Sithole in Johannesburg’s neighbouring township of Alexandria. Yet these images are not new for South Africans. Just earlier this year, another episode of xenophobic-induced looting and violence occurred Soweto. Recent violence particularly calls to mind scenes from just seven years ago, in May 2008, when 62 foreigners were killed and thousands displaced in the worst xenophobic attacks in the country’s post-apartheid history.

These episodes of violence are not sporadic. They represent long-simmering anti-migrant sentiments that have been increasing in the country since the early 1990s. As apartheid collapsed and South Africa opened its borders to foreign migration, many within the country found new scapegoats for their dissatisfaction with democracy’s failed promises. They blamed foreigners, rather than whites or the government, for high unemployment and scarce resources.

But these sentiments can be traced back much further than 1994 – fear or hatred of foreigners has a long history in South Africa. Continue reading “Xenophobia in South Africa: Historical Legacies of Exclusion and Violence”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

ANZAC
Woolworths’ controversial ANZAC Day campaign poster.

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

From Lincoln’s forgotten post-war black colonization scheme to misremembering the First World War, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Sonny Ramphal’s Global Life

Ramphal3

Stuart Mole
Mr. Mole is a PhD Student at the University of Exeter. He was Special Assistant to the Secretary-General (1984-1990), Director of the Secretary-General’s Office (1990-2000), and Director General of the Royal Commonwealth Society (2000-2009).

Nowadays, Sir Shridath ‘Sonny’ Ramphal – lawyer and international diplomat – is well settled into retirement, though still a giant figure in his native Caribbean and still able to stir the memories of older generations who remember his boundless activism on the world stage.

From 1975 to 1990 he was the longest-serving Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, and for six of those years I was lucky enough to be his Special Assistant. It was an exhilarating time, now given new immediacy by the recent publication of his memoir Glimpses of a Global Life (2014).

This weighty and enthralling record demonstrates a contribution to international affairs which was multi-faceted and never less than exceptional. He served on a string of international commissions, including Brandt, on development and the North-South divide; Bruntland, pioneering the notion of sustainable development; and Palme, on peace and international security. There were other issues where his intellectual leadership and courage stood out. He was among the first to warn Africa and the world of HIV/AIDS – and among the first to speak of sea-level rise and climate change, many decades before such talk became common currency.

But perhaps he is best remembered for his titanic struggle against racism in Southern Africa – in the eventual vanquishing of white minority rule in Rhodesia and, more than a decade later, in helping bring to an end apartheid in South Africa. Continue reading “Sonny Ramphal’s Global Life”

Film Archives and the Future of Imperial History

Thackeray 1

David Thackeray
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @d_thackeray

Last month I had the pleasure of participating in a joint workshop staged by the AHRC Care for the Future and Labex: Passes Dans le Present research clusters at the Royaumont Foundation near Paris. The two days showcased a range of projects assessing how study of the past can inform contemporary and future policy-making and cultural debates- from the use of colonial heroes in modern Africa, to how digitisation is reshaping understanding of museums, and the links between modern and historical anti-slavery movements.

My own focus was on the challenges facing film archives and how this affects the future of imperial history. For the historian of imperial trade networks – film provides a fascinating, and in many ways under-used resource. Continue reading “Film Archives and the Future of Imperial History”

The Global Anti-Apartheid Movement, 1946-1994

Dr. Nicholas Grant
American Studies, University of East Anglia
Follow on Twitter @nicholasggrant

The Radical History Review Special Issue on ‘The Global Antiapartheid Movement’ No. 119 (Spring, 2014)
The Radical History Review Special Issue on ‘The Global Antiapartheid Movement’ No. 119 (Spring, 2014)

Last month saw the publication of the Radical History Review’s special issue on ‘The Global Anti-Apartheid Movement’. Appearing on the 20th anniversary of South African democracy, the issue contains articles, roundtables and review pieces that explore a range of transnational connections that shaped political opposition to white supremacy in South Africa. As editors Lisa Brock, Alex Lichtenstein and Van Gosse comment in their introduction, “in seeking contributions to this issue, we made a deliberate effort to give the truly global nature of the movements in solidarity with southern Africa their due.”[1]

Whilst activism in the US and Britain continues to dominate much of the scholarship on the international anti-apartheid movement, this special issue makes an important effort to move beyond this occasionally restricting narrative. Continue reading “The Global Anti-Apartheid Movement, 1946-1994”

ANC Uses History to Sweep South Africa’s 2014 Elections

Emily Bridger
Johannesburg, South Africa
6 May 2014

Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa, on election day 2014, Exeter’s Emily Bridger argues that the African National Congress’s continued political success owes much to its use of the past and the memory of Nelson Mandela.

Delwyn Verasamy (M&G)

Today, South Africans will go to the polls to vote in their country’s fifth democratic general election. South Africa’s political atmosphere has, since 1994, been characterized by the stubborn persistence of political allegiances, and a deep feeling of loyalty and indebtedness towards the African National Congress, the party that liberated its people from the oppressive conditions of apartheid. This year’s election carries particular historical significance, as it not only marks the twentieth anniversary since the end of apartheid but also the recent passing of the country’s political father figure, Nelson Mandela. While previous ANC election campaigns have focused on the hope for a better future, this year’s campaign has made a decisive rhetorical turn to the past. Likewise, to understand the ANC’s continued success, we must look to the party’s past progress rather than its present scandals. Continue reading “ANC Uses History to Sweep South Africa’s 2014 Elections”