This panel uses the concept of the 'network' to challenge common geographic, institutional, and thematic approaches to decolonisation. It explores how the connections and ruptures involved in networks elucidate questions of agency and contingency in anticolonial struggles and their aftermaths.
In recent years, the influence of transnational and global history has led scholars of decolonisation to move away from restrictive 'metropole-colony' frameworks, towards methodologies which emphasise the significance of connections across territorial or imperial boundaries. In this light, this panel explores the potential use of 'networked' approaches to the process of anticolonial struggles and their aftermaths in Africa. Networks, both constructed in and transcending spaces of anticolonial politics, offer a means of analysing not only points of connection between activists, but also sites of rupture and divergence. In doing so, they elucidate questions of agency and contingency that shaped anticolonial struggles. This panel asks how the concept of the network allows historians to challenge existing geographic, institutional, and thematic approaches to decolonisation. How did transformations in communications, media, and travel make and sustain anticolonial networks? How did international organisations and actors from outside of Africa seek to shape and disrupt such networks? What role did transfers of capital play in these relationships, and with what consequences? How do networks help us to understand intellectual genealogies of anticolonial dissent, such as pan-Africanism, regionalism, and socialism? Finally, this panel seeks to extend the history of anticolonial networks into the post-independence era. How, amid the Cold War and processes of globalisation, did these networks continue to animate transnational activity, and with what consequences for the post-colonial state? This panel welcomes papers from historians as well as scholars working in other disciplines whose work contains a strong historical dimension.