Author: Aden Knaap

What We’re Reading This Week

MARTIN CREVIER Simon Han, “The Impossible Task of Remembering the Nanking Massacre”, The Atlantic. Daniel T. Willingham, “How to Get Your Mind to Read”, New York Times. Serge Gruzinski, “Tristes Tropiques,” [“Sad Tropics”] Libération. Faisal Devji, “C.A. Bayly (Obituary),” Past & Present. MEGHNA CHAUDHURI James Davison Hunter, “Liberal Democracy and the Unraveling of the Enlightenment…

Reintegrating Apartheid into Post-War Global History: An Interview with Jamie Miller

John Vorster meets with President Hastings Banda during his state visit to Malawi in 1970. Source: Jamie Miller, An African Volk: The Apartheid Regime and its Search for Survival (OUP, 2016).

In 1975, South African Prime Minister John Vorster met with Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda at Victoria Falls. The purpose of the meeting? To end white rule in Rhodesia.

This is not how we usually picture apartheid South Africa. But it sits at the heart of the story told by Jamie Miller in An African Volk: The Apartheid Regime and its Search for Survival (OUP, 2016). During an interview that lasted several hours, Miller spoke of the importance of taking self-conceptions of apartheid seriously, of historicizing decolonization in all its messy contradictions, and of the role of anticommunism in this history. He also elaborated on the process of writing the book: on his experiences interviewing former apartheid leaders and the ethics of entering the apartheid worldview.

Jamie Miller is a  Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a masters and doctorate from the University of Cambridge and has previously been a Fox Predoctoral International Fellow at Yale University, a Visiting Assistant Professor at Quinnipiac University, and a Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University. An African Volk is his first book.

Aden Knaap

What We’re Reading This Week

SEAN PHILLIPS Rogers Brubaker, “The New Language of European Populism,” Foreign Affairs. Alexandra Förderl-Schmidt, “Ein Quadratkilometer Weltgeschichte” [“One Square Kilometer of World History”], Süddeutsche Zeitung Erik Linstrum, “The Empire Dreamt Back,” Aeon. Abhishek Mehrotra, “The Real History of Hindu-Muslim Relations Under Akbar,” The Diplomat. FATMA ALADAĞ Erik Moshe,  “What I’m Reading: An Interview with Historian Michael Goebel”, History News…

Hesitant Hegemony for China and the US? An Interview with Lixin Wang

Speculation is mounting that the United States, with Donald Trump cast in the role of president, will step back from the world stage, and China will increasingly lead. But what would China face if it decided to assume international leadership and advance its own ideas and agendas for global order? Drawing lessons from the American…

CFP: Anti-Catholicism in Europe & America, 1520-1900 (Newcastle, UK, 11-13 September 2018)

A three-day workshop on anti-Catholicism in Europe and America will be held at Newcastle University 11-13 September 2018. The aims of the workshop are to compare and contrast the anti-Catholic traditions of a range of countries and regions across Europe and America from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century; to see how definitions of ‘popery’…

Job Post: Assistant Professor, International Studies (University of California, Irvine)

The International Studies Program at the University of California, Irvine invites applications from outstanding scholars involved in critical interdisciplinary global research with substantive foci in political, sociocultural, historical, legal, geographical and economic issues to apply for a tenure-track assistant professor position. All candidates with a research agenda that engages complex global issues and cuts across…

How to Start an Empire: An Interview with Steven Press

Dr. Steven Press

Open a world map. Chances are it carves the world into a multi-colored jigsaw of national territories.  We’re used to thinking of the contemporary international order as composed of regular nation-states. But what happens if we imagine a different map—one made up of irregular, overlapping, and contested claims, not just to territories, but to languages and peoples as well? A cartography of international disorder would emerge.

For starters, the large landmass conventionally thought of as Australia would be overlaid with the black, yellow, and red flag of the Aboriginal Provisional Government (APG). The APG claims Aborigines never ceded sovereignty over Australia; that they “are and always have been a sovereign people.” The APG has enacted Aboriginal sovereignty by issuing birth certificates and Aboriginal passports (which have been accepted in Libya, Norway, Switzerland, and the Mohawk nation), and sending diplomatic delegations overseas. Just off the coast of Australia, a small set of mostly uninhabited islands and reefs would feature the rainbow coloring of the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands. In 2004, the Kingdom’s soon-to-be Emperor, Dale Parker Anderson, raised the rainbow flag on one of the islands, claiming them “as homeland for the gay and lesbian peoples of the world.” The Kingdom has adopted the rainbow pride flag as its official ensign, the Euro as its official currency, and issued its own stamps. And what about the territory beyond Earth? Zoom out and you would see the proposed Space Kingdom of Asgardia. Its Head of Nation, Russian-Azerbaijani scientist and businessman Igor Ashurbeyli, plans to create a new nation in outer space, with orbiting satellites serving as the space nation’s initial capital.

We might be tempted to dismiss these claims to sovereignty as oddities of the contemporary world. Not so, according to Steven Press’ new book, Rogue Empires: Contracts and Conmen in Europe’s Scramble for Africa (Harvard University Press, 2017). In Rogue Empires, Press offers a pre-history to these claims to sovereignty, taking his readers back to a time in the mid-nineteenth century when empires across South Asia and Africa were started and governed by companies and adventurers. Many of these individuals were what Press deems “disreputable types”: men like James Brooke, a British East India Company veteran who, by agreement with the Sultan of Brunei, became rajah of Sarawak on the island of Borneo in 1841. In Press’ telling, the ventures of private actors like Brooke culminated in the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, where Belgium’s King Leopold and the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck extended the imprimatur of European legitimacy to these “rogue empires.” The European powers would later rely on these private entities as precedents for establishing and extending colonies in Niger, South Africa, the Congo, Namibia, Cameroon, and beyond.

We recently spoke with Steven Press from his office in California. Press explained his interest in territorial anomalies and “disreputable” individuals, and foreshadowed his current book project on the afterlives of these rogue empires. Press is Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University. Rogue Empires is his first book.

—Aden Knaap…

Fellowship: Fung Global Fellows Program at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies

Princeton University is pleased to announce the call for applications to the Fung Global Fellows Program at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS). Each year the program selects six scholars from around the world to be in residence at Princeton for an academic year and to engage in research and discussion around…