Welcome

In recent years, scholars have begun to re-think the postwar era in Africa not as a direct and inevitable march towards decolonization, but as a period of transition with a range of ‘past futures’. Renewed study of the period can reveal a range of efforts to re-imagine Empires for a changed postwar global context, yielding alternative visions of decolonization and the transition to independence. Comparisons within and across European empires in Africa from all perspectives – European, African, international – can do crucial work towards reconstructing an important era of global political realignment.

This symposium aims to examine the nature of post-1945 European empires across the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. What structural changes to empire took place? How did metropolitan, colonial, and autochthonous actors attempt to re-imagine colonialism or the relationship between Africa and Europe, or Africa and the world more broadly? How was imperial citizenship rewritten, recast, or challenged? What impact did new systems for the flow of information – mass media, Cold War networks, the 'Americanization' of aid and development projects, etc – have on the ideologies and practices (or counter-ideologies and counter-practices) of empire? And what legacies did these efforts to reconfigure colonial rule in an era of ‘human rights’ leave for the postwar period?

Recent and in-progress scholarly works also highlight some very productive parallels or connections between the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the postwar period. This symposium aims to draw the two geographic areas into the same analytic framework, to draw comparisons across the Sahara, and to reveal some broader conclusions about postwar European Empires and the process of decolonization.

The symposium, which will take place in Madison, Wisconsin, intends to engage the work of junior faculty and graduate students, and encourages the participation of established scholars to foster an intellectually productive discussion. We are particularly interesting in drawing scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and geographic concentrations (African, European, and Middle East studies; history, literature, sociology, political science, etc.) to better understand the genealogies, experiences, and afterlives of the postwar colonial period.

Presenters will be provided lodging, and some funding may be available for travel. Proposals of 300-500 words should be submitted through the event’s website.

Thank you,

Neil Kodesh, Director of the African Studies Program and
Terrence Peterson, Conference Organizer, African Studies Program,
University of Wisconsin Madison