Prof. Dr. Jean-Philippe Dedieu (Senior Fellow, New York University, Paris)

‘Afro-Asian’: The Indian Uses of an Intellectual and Political Category in Times of African Decolonization, 1947-1962

29 February 2020 – 30 June 2020

The outbreak of COVID-19 significantly impacted my research in India. I arrived in New Delhi on Saturday, February 29, 2020. The first two weeks were mostly devoted to reaching out to local and national archives and libraries and understanding their stringent enrolment procedures for scholars who are not Indian citizens. Foreign scholars have indeed to submit a formal letter of introduction from their diplomatic mission. Considering that French diplomatic services in Delhi do not issue these certificates, I had to contact the French Center for Human Sciences (CSH) supervised by the French Ministry of European and Foreign Affairs (MEAE). The CSH Director issued a letter for me on March 12. This letter allowed me to register the day after with the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and with the Delhi Archives. But the spiraling outbreak of COVID-19 in India led to the gradual and then total closure of all archives and libraries making my research impossible. The call for repatriation issued by French authorities along with the public curfew declared by the Indian government on March 22 unfortunately led me to take the decision of leaving India on March 23.

As a result, I reworked my plan to compensate my inability to work in Indian archives. This reworked plan was based upon two sets of goals i) the analysis of primary sources I have gathered over the last few years and ii) the extensive and intensive use of Indian primary and secondary sources which had been already digitized.

  1. Analysis of archives collected in Europe and North America

During my Fellowship, I started analysing primary sources I have already collected and scanned over the last few years in Europe and North America, most especially documents from the Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affaires (France), the Foreign Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office records held by the National Archives, Kew Gardens (United Kingdom), and from the Archives of the United Nations (United States).

  1. Exploration and analysis of Indian primary and secondary documents

The most crucial part of my research was to explore and analyse primary and secondary sources available on online portals devoted to modern Indian history in order to palliate my non-physical presence in India.

I conducted an exhaustive analysis of articles related to my research project which were published by The Indian Quarterly edited by the Indian Council for World Affairs and the daily newspaper The Times of India.

I embarked on an extensive exploration and in-depth reading of debates which were held at the Lok Sabha, the lower chamber of India’s bicameral parliament for the period 1947-1962. This exploration will be supplemented in the coming months by the analysis of debates held at the Rajya Sabha, the upper chamber of India’s parliament.

Additionally, I identified a list of books, most especially autobiographies, memoirs, edited collection of speeches, etc. which I will either buy or order digitized copies of in the near future.

This research (for regular reportings, please see the appendix) ultimately led to a virtual colloquium on May 28 where I presented my preliminary findings and delineated writing projects following the recommendations and insights from TM1 Module Coordinators and Committee Members.


Jean-Philippe Dedieu is a lecturer at New York University in Paris. His research focuses on the political history and sociology of African diaspora. His scholarly articles have appeared or are forthcoming in African Studies Review, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Humanity, and Journal of African History, 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 recently a CIRHUS Fellowship at New York University, a Weatherhead Initiative on Global History Fellowship at Harvard University, and a visiting scholarship from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

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