Youth against Empire

Insurgent Youth

Cross-posted from Comparative Studies in Society and History

STACEY HYND
Small Warriors? Children and Youth in Colonial Insurgencies and Counterinsurgency, ca. 1945–1960

MYLES OSBORNE
“Mau Mau are Angels … Sent by Haile Selassie”: A Kenyan War in Jamaica

Sometimes CSSH articles fit together remarkably well. One would almost think they were written to each other, like intellectual greeting cards, or the correspondence of old friends. Such is the case with two recent essays by Stacey Hynd (62/4: 684-713) and Myles Osborne (62/4: 714-744). Here’s how our editors characterized them:

INSURGENT YOUTH  The ranks of insurgencies are mostly filled by the young. The youth take to the streets and barricades more readily than do the aged, the propertied, and the established. Insurgencies depend on youth not only for their energy and hope, but also for the ways “youth” indexes the future, and presents a visage of innocence that seems relatively untainted by the stains and debris of historical wrongs. Yet insurgency can also be forced upon the young, even onto the fragile shoulders of children. The sources, networks, and reasons for recruitment are too often less than clear.

In “Small Warriors? Children and Youth in Colonial Insurgencies and Counterinsurgency, ca. 1946–1960,” Stacey Hynd explores how young insurgents are recruited and mobilized. Comparing Kenya and Cyprus in the 1940s and 1950s, Hynd shows that while some youth were coerced into armed rebellions, others joined of their own will. Teenaged warriors brought needed numbers but were especially valued for the ways they symbolized innocence and hope, helping to catalyze broader support for the movement.

Myles Osborne’s contribution also leads us to Kenya. In “‘Mau Mau Are Angels … Sent by Haile Selassie’: A Kenyan War in Jamaica,” Osborne examines the impact of Kenya’s Mau Mau uprising as the news of it circulated in Jamaica during the 1950s. The Mau Mau insurgency inspired Rastafari and other young and mostly poor Jamaicans, who saw it as a form of pan-Africanism much like Marcus Garvey’s. This version of Black Power in the Caribbean reveals intellectual frameworks developed by subaltern youth, and transnational circuits of pan-Africanism that formed even without direct contact or diffusion.

CSSH: We enjoyed reading your papers together. The overlaps in approach give incredible richness to the local insurgencies and global cultures of resistance you describe. Even more pleasant was learning that the close fit was as uncanny for you as it was for us. It wasn’t exactly a coincidence, but it’s fair to say you didn’t see it coming! Continue reading “Youth against Empire”

Colonial Counterinsurgency in Comparative Perspective, Sept. 18-19

Gareth Curless and Martin Thomas
Centre for War, State, and Society, University of Exeter

Palestine police poster (1)Online registration is now open for a two-day conference, ‘Colonial Counterinsurgency in Comparative Perspective’, to be held on 18 and 19 September 2014, the University of Exeter.

The recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have prompted renewed interest in Britain’s colonial experience of rebellion and state breakdown, while current French interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic have stirred controversy over French military actions in former colonial dependencies, promoting accusations of ‘imperialist humanitarianism’. Yet, in spite of increasing interest in the history of counterinsurgency and empire, we lack comparative studies of colonial responses to armed insurrection, civil disorder, anti-colonial paramilitaries and other irregular forces. The aim of the conference is to address this imbalance by drawing on examples from the British, Dutch, French, and Portuguese empires, as well as case studies from China and Southern Africa. Continue reading “Colonial Counterinsurgency in Comparative Perspective, Sept. 18-19”