Call for Paper Submission to the Dossier “African resistances: new issues and debates”

It’s open, until the September 30th 2018, the period for paper submission to the dossier “African resistances: new issues and debates”, that will be published in the 2009 edition of the “Anos 90”.

Organizers: Patrícia Teixeira Santos (UNIFESP) Sílvio Marcus de Souza Correa (UFSC)

Dossier Proposal:

Since the known Scramble for Africa, the colonial empires had to deal with a large number of resistance movements. Among others, the confrontations of the Mahdist State against the Anglo-Egyptian coalition for almost two decades served as a reference for the writing of the contemporary African history as of the second half of the twentieth century. Up to that moment, a colonial literature had covered the resistances as retrograde movements, contrary to the modernization. This “colonial approach” considered the various rebellions and insurgencies as “barbaric revolts”, irrational and amorphous. According to the colonizer’s perspective, the resistances were an atavism, a simple demonstration of “tradition” on behalf of the reproduction of archaic structures, the preservation of customary rights, the defense of a local elite’s privileges, etc. As of the middle of the twentieth century, a new generation of historians would be enlightened by the sunrise of the independences.

In Dacar, Idaban and Dar es Salaam, to keep with this three examples, the new African historiography would refute the current interpretation about the African resistances. Some of the most prominent historians of these schools participated in a UNESCO editorial project for the collection on General History of Africa. In it, it is found some of the scholars’ attempts to characterize the resistances, from the defense of self-determination of a heteroclite set of ethnical and/or religious groups to armed movements whose purpose was to win militarily the colonial troops. There were also proposals for a typology and even for a chronology of the African resistances, such as, respectively, the one by the Kenyan historian, Ali Al’amin Mazrui, and the other by the Ghanaian historian Albert Adu Boahen. The surveys by Allen Isaacman, Jan Vansina, Terence Osborn Ranger and others historians made for a notion of ensemble on African resistances. The studies started to cover the resistances not as stationed, but as continental positions. In the seventh volume of General History of Africa, the African resistances obtain a new dimension. 

It is about a wide phenomenon, omnipresent in the colonial spaces (French, German, Belgian, British, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian). What occurs is that some resistances to the colonialism were taken by protonationalist movements. Political leaders such as the ashanti king Prempeh I, the almamy Samory Touré, the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II, the nama captain Hendrik Witbooi and the herero leader Samuel Maharero joined the African resistance pantheon, where some of them are considered avant la lettre national heroes. Once the colonial perspective about the African resistances was left behind, there was a rise of resistance movements against the colonialism. For some historians, suicides, abortions and reduction of the birth rate were signs of resistance. For some others, some forms of resistance were not anti-colonial and they would have neither the same impact nor the same historical relevance as the struggle movements for the national liberation. In a perspective, perhaps, there was a common ground among the historians. The resistances to the colonialism were the fruit of the African agency. During the first middle of the twentieth century, some forms of African resistances made the colonial cities redefine their colonial policies. However, the urban worker’s strikes in port cities of Africa or the miners’ in the countryside of continent didn’t always have an anti-colonial nature.

The participation of either the “evolved” or the “assimilated” people in some associations and in several forms of claiming protests would give chance not only to new reforms of the colonial statutes, but also to more radical projects, including the anticolonial. From the 1960’s, the armed struggles in the so-called “Portuguese Africa” and the actions in the clandestinity of CNA, SWAPO and ZANU in the Southern Africa resized the forms of African resistances to the “White power”. In the areas where there was a significant Muslim population, the movements for national liberation started to evoke a past of “holy war”. At that moment, it was thought, in a very novel way, but, at the same time, very dichotomous, that the colonial borders would have produced irreconcilable divisions between the “colonized world” and “colonizer world”. Despite its binary logic, this argument was quite important and fundamental in the development of the historiography on African resistance. The anticolonial perspective in the historiography from the 1960’s and 1970’s stimulated some idealization of the pre-colonial past. This search of “a past with no evil” led to a political reinterpretation of the religious traditions and histories that, volens nolens, contributed ideologically to the legitimation of new national states. For some historians, the colonialism would have been a brief chapter in the African history, not more than a hiatus. However, the colonial experience was pivotal for some leaderships of struggles for national liberations and, consequently, for the building of the modern states.

We should also remember that the African elites tried to legitimate the power through a reconciliation between the modernity (post-colonial) and the tradition (pre-colonial). In several African countries, the single party political system acted as if the opposition were an enemy of nation. The Angola’s and Mozambique’s civil war also demonstrated that the African resistances were not only to the foreign colonizer.  The political experiences of a recent past, especially from military dictatorships, civil war or from single party systems of African nations generated a theoretical review of the African resistances, as well as a range of forward-looking researches in many aspects. Among others, the contributions from Klaas van Walraven, Jon Abbink, Gregory Maddox and Frederick Cooper about the concept of resistance in the History of Africa stand out. We should also highlight researches such as the one by de Nina Emma Mba and Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch who paid attention to the female agency in the African resistance movements. Therefore, the subordinate studies, the post-colonial studies and the gender studies enabled a renewal of the perspective on the African resistances in the nineteenth and twentieth century. The organizers invite researchers to contribute to the reflection and to the debate about the African resistances from the colonialism to the current days. The proposal is to bring out new approaches for the historiography about some political and/or religious movements in Africa from the colonization to the globalization. 120 years after the end of the Mahdist State in Sudan and the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, the studies about African resistances have a range of “rebellions”, “uprisings” and “wars” to be revisited, as well as other forms of resistances to be identified.