African histories

Featured Interviews

When the Ottoman Empire Scrambled for Africa: An Interview With Mostafa Minawi
Interviews | March 14, 2018

When the Ottoman Empire Scrambled for Africa: An Interview With Mostafa Minawi

Taking the Ottoman Empire out of the Middle East area studies prison to which it's so often confined, Mostafa Minawi has traced, in detail, many of the long-missed connections between the Sublime Porte – the center of Ottoman governance – and sub-Saharan Africa. More specifically, his research has demonstrated how those links played into the Ottoman Empire's participation in the late nineteenth century "scramble" for territory by European empires on the African continent – an episode in which, Minawi argues, the empire played a much more active role than has previously been assumed.

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Reintegrating Apartheid into Post-War Global History: An Interview with Jamie Miller
Interviews | December 21, 2017

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

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. 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.

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Making the Pilgrimage to the "Mecca of Revolution": A Conversation with Jeffrey James Byrne on Algerian Internationalism and the Third World
Interviews | August 25, 2016

Making the Pilgrimage to the "Mecca of Revolution": A Conversation with Jeffrey James Byrne on Algerian Internationalism and the Third World

Algeria's position as a stable authoritarian regime in a region rocked by the mutual learning processes of one "Arab Street" from the other is ironic, since, as University of British Columbia historian Jeffrey Byrne shows in his recent book, Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization & The Third World Order, the country's identity was from its founding deeply tied up with its identity as a "pilot state" for anti-colonial revolution. After all, Algeria gained its independence from France in the first place through combination of guerrilla warfare against the French military and the deft diplomacy of twenty- and thirty-something diplomats-cum-revolutionaries operating between Peking, Moscow, and the United Nations. From 1962–1965, when revolutionary Ahmed Ben Bella served as President of the young republic, Algiers was on the itinerary of every self-respecting revolutionary group out there, from Nelson Mandela's African National Congress to Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Liberation Organization to European Trotskyists. No less than Frantz Fanon, the Martinique-born Afro-Caribbean intellectual who was the psychologist of colonization and decolonization par excellence, used Algeria as the basis for his works like The Wretched of the Earth.

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Thicker Than Water: Revisiting Global Connections on the Banks of the Suez Canal with Valeska Huber
Interviews | July 20, 2016

Thicker Than Water: Revisiting Global Connections on the Banks of the Suez Canal with Valeska Huber

There was perhaps no more potent symbol of this world of ultra-connectivity than the Suez Canal, built in what was still Ottoman Egypt in 1869 and connecting the Red Sea with the Mediterranean. The Canal increased world trade. It also soon became a vital strategic artery for the British Empire, since it made the "passage to India" via intermediary stations like Suez and Aden far shorter than the former trip around the Cape of Good Hope. So powerful was the imaginary of the Canal as one of the crucial changes of the epoch that, when Henry Morton Stanley finally located David Livingstone (of "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?") on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1871, the Canal was the first thing that came to Stanley's mind when Livingstone asked him what had changed in the world during his many years out of contact with the Western world. Yet as Dr. Valeska Huber, a research fellow at the German Historical Institute in London, shows in her recent book Channelling Mobilities: Migration and Globalization in the Suez Canal Region and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, paperback 2015), the Suez Canal did not so much open as channel migration and globalization during this world of increasing trade and economic integration.

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De-Segregating International Relations: A Conversation with Robert Vitalis on "White World Order, Black Power Politics"
Interviews | May 30, 2016

De-Segregating International Relations: A Conversation with Robert Vitalis on "White World Order, Black Power Politics"

Debates about how American universities today deal with race – whether they should scrub buildings of the names of white supremacists, or invest more in programs in African-American Studies and professionalization programs for faculty of color – are unlikely to end anytime soon. However, as the work of our most recent guest to the Global History Forum, Robert Vitalis (University of Pennsylvania), suggests, the very structure of these debates may obscure an important history in the making of universities and the structure of academic knowledge today. While coming to terms with the racist legacy of individual Presidents or college donors may be a necessary task, as Vitalis shows in his new book, White World Order, Black Power Politics. In it, he shows that race was actually quite core to many disciplines, but especially international relations of the kind taught at the Wilson School and sister institutions in the United States long before African-American protest movements challenged existing structures of power.

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What We're Reading This Week
The Blog | March 5, 2020

What We're Reading This Week

The flags of Zanzibar and Kenya were added this afternoon to the 111 flags already flying in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York. 16 December 1963. Photo credit:
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