‘Afro-Asian’: The Indian Uses of an Intellectual and Political Category in Times of African Decolonization, 1947-1962
1 March 2020 – 1 July 2020
India’s connections with Africa, which were greatly pre-dated by the ancient nexuses of Indian Ocean trade, took an unprecedented political form in the early twentieth century. Liberation movements emerged within African and Asian territories of the European colonial empires. African and Asian migrants from across the European empires began charting anti-colonial principles based on their shared experience of colonialism and cross-community exchanges. When India gained independence in 1947, followed by other Asian countries, linkages between Africa and Asia were strongly reshaped. The concept of an Afro-Asian solidarity entered as a powerful political category with the holding of the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955. It allowed anti-imperialist leaders, activists and intellectuals to consider this major historical juncture and to shape the uncertain futures of African and Asian emerging nation states against the background of the Cold War.
My project benefits from a surging interest in Afro-Asian solidarities that is highlighting the rise of global history to counter the conceptual Eurocentrism peculiar to past historiographical traditions of colonial and post-colonial studies. Long forgotten by scholars, the Bandung Conference has now attracted new research by historians to shed light on its rise and progressive demise. Afro-Asian connections have also been the subject of case studies underlining transnational ties forged between Africans and Asians as well as between African-Americans and Asians in the 1960s and later.
Based upon extensive research already conducted in Africa, Europe and North America, my project aims to understand how African decolonization was analysed from an Indian viewpoint and how decolonization processes led to a rethinking of the principles of an Afro-Asian solidarity, which was originally built upon the shared experience and memory of colonization. At ICAS:MP, my work will engage first with the political and intellectual frameworks of Afro-Asianism as developed in India, then with the challenges to these frameworks raised by the complex African decolonization which swept across the continent in the 1950s and 1960s, and ultimately with the memory or erasure of these ideals in a Global South fully converted to the neo-liberal project since the demise of Third-Worldism and the end of the Cold War.
Jean-Philippe Dedieu is a lecturer at New York University in Paris. His research focuses on the political history and sociology of African diaspora. He has contributed to The New Yorker and The New York Times, and his scholarly articles have also appeared in African Studies Review, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Foreign Affairs, and Humanity, among others. He has published a book in French: Immigrant Voices: African Migrants in the Public Sphere in France, 1960–1995 (Paris: Klincksieck, 2012). A former Fulbright scholar at University of California, Berkeley, he received a CIRHUS Fellowship at New York University in 2014, a Weatherhead Initiative on Global History Fellowship at Harvard University in 2015, and a visiting scholarship from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in 2019.