Full of gripping historical vignettes and evocative photographs, an accessible overview of the dynamic figures who resisted colonization, from India, Senegal, and Algeria to Vietnam, Kenya, and Congo.
Decolonization started on the very first day of colonization.
From the arrival of the Europeans, the peoples of Africa and Asia rose up. No one willingly accepts subjugation, but in order to one day regain freedom, you first and foremost need to stay alive. Faced with the Europeans’ machine guns, the colonized hit back in other ways: from civil disobedience to communist revolution, by way of soccer and literature. It was a struggle marked by infinite patience and unlimited determination, fought by heroic men and women now largely unknown.
Condensing a wealth of scholarly research into short, lively chapters, Decolonization brings their extraordinary stories to light:
Manikarnika Tambe, the Indian queen who led her troops into battle against the British;
Mary Nyanjiru, the Kenyan activist who spearheaded a protest in Nairobi;
Lamine Senghor, the Senegalese infantryman who became an anti-colonial militant in Paris;
and many more.
With them, a current of resistance swept the world, culminating in the independence of almost all the colonies in the 1960s. But at what price? In the atomic India of Indira Gandhi, in the Congo subjected to Mobutu’s dictatorship, or in a London shaken by the rioting of young immigrants, we can see just how crucial it is that we understand and learn from this painful history.
Historian Singaravélou (coauthor, A Past of Possibilities) and documentary filmmakers Miské (the novel Arab Jazz) and Ball deliver an accessible overview of colonial independence movements from their 19th-century origins to modern-day programs of reconciliation and reparations in postcolonial states. Briskly profiling individual freedom fighters and their respective movements, the authors cover in the span of just 20 pages the 1927 Anti-Imperialist Congress, Sarojini Naidu's 1928 U.S. tour promoting Indian independence, Nguyen Ai Quoc's creation of the Vietnamese Communist Party, and Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar's call for the abolition of the caste system in India. The overall mosaic touches on the particularities of indirect rule in British India, the racialized roots of modern anatomy and neurology, the role of "high-yield wheat seed" in cooling tensions between India and Pakistan in the 1960s, the neoliberal preservation of postcolonial dictatorships, and more. Throughout, the authors make clear that victims and oppressors alike were imprisoned by the ideologies of exploitation and racial superiority, and pay moving tribute to the "iron will" of generations of people who found injustice "more unbearable than death itself." Enriched by copious photographs and standalone summaries of such critical yet lesser-known events as the 1982–1983 Talbot Automotive Strike by immigrant workers in France, this is a valuable overview of the people and forces behind decolonization.