The US war in Vietnam was critical in shaping state-level international relations as well as subversive ideas and networks of solidarity and political activism in the 'Long Sixties'. This panel explores the war's effects in Africa on political ideas, activist organising, and state-society relations.
The transnational dimensions of sixties and seventies social movements, political ideas, military exchanges and popular protest have been the subject of innovative recent scholarship on the 'Global Sixties' in Africa and southern African liberation movements. Strikingly absent from many of these recent studies, however, is any serious engagement with the discursive and material connections between this era's African political struggles and the US war in Vietnam. While more proximate events, such as the Algerian War, the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, and Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Rhodesia played important roles in shaping how Africans imagined and agitated for new political possibilities during these years, the war in Vietnam was nevertheless a significant issue on the continent. In this panel, we aim to re-evaluate how the Vietnam War affected both the politics of popular protest and postcolonial nation-state building in Africa. We seek papers that address the following questions: how did African states official responses to the Vietnam War differ across space and time? How, if at all, did such responses shape institutional and public space for the expression of alternative forms of politics among Africans, particularly young people? To what extent did anti-war protest movements provide young and politically engaged Africans with new languages of dissent and international networks of solidarity to express their grievances and to agitate for political change 'at home'? And what do such political activities reveal about state-society relations within African states during this period?