Accepted paper:

African Black Internationalism: Negritude's Anglophone Networks, 1947-66


Merve Fejzula (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

This paper uses an intellectual history of negritude's dissemination into Nigeria and America from 1947-66 to problematize the use of "network" in black internationalist scholarship and also center Africa within this literature.

Paper long abstract:

Among scholars of black internationalism, "network" has become a standard conceptual device used to trace the patterns of political, social, and cultural organization between the African continent and its diaspora. In fact, black internationalism itself is often thought of to be a history by default of such networks. In the case of an intellectual history of negritude's circulation at midcentury in the Anglophone African and diasporic world, specifically Nigeria and the US, "network" allows us to capture the history of affiliated cultural societies and transnational print culture between Dakar, Lagos, Ibadan, and New York. Yet the way in which "network" is often employed in this historiography generates as many difficulties as it resolves. Primary among them is the tendency to collapse the meaning of "network" into a single unified front of political organizing. The affiliative links between Senegalese, Nigerian, and African American intellectuals who participated in negritude's dissemination from 1947-66 certainly formed a network of transnational cultural-political organizations coded around "Negro-Africanness." Yet their disputes over the notion of racial membership resist collapsing into a single vision. By using network to capture these organizational links, but reconstituting the ongoing debates over blackness as a meaningful form of transnational solidarity during decolonization, a more complex and problematized usage of network within forms of anti-colonial struggle becomes possible. Furthermore, focusing upon African-anchored iterations of black internationalism can also correct its typical Americanist emphasis, allowing us to think of the ways in which black internationalist practice was also crucial to African decolonization.

panel His17
Connected decolonisations: networked approaches to anticolonial struggles in Africa, 1950s-80s