SAS & Fung Programs Joint Symposium | Inventing the Third World: In Search of Freedom in the Global South, 1947-1979

Friday, February 28, 2020 - 9:00am to Saturday, February 29, 2020 - 2:00pm
A71 Louis A. Simpson Building
Friday, February 28, 2020 - 9:00am to Saturday, February 29, 2020 - 2:00pm

The end of the Second World War and the eclipse of empires brought a wave of efforts to reimagine the world in the future tense. Nation-states emerging from the shadows of colonial rule gathered at Bandung to chart alternative destinies. They built a non-aligned movement to strike a different path from Cold War geopolitics. Equally importantly, writers, artists, photographers, and musicians experimented with cultures of hope and possibility. Viewed from different points in what we now call the global south, or what was then called – in a triumphal chorus – the Third World, there was a search for new meanings of freedom, self-determination, and the promise of development. Out of this moment came efforts in the South to create new histories of global relations (Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, and dependency theory), new heroes and icons (Che Guevara, Napalm Girl), new repertoires (Little Red Books, photos of atrocity in Sharpeville, or Saigon), and new genres (Mumbai jazz, the tropical novel).  Such aspirations for collective freedom and justice coexisted and competed with the ideals of individual rights and artistic and cultural freedom globally disseminated by LIFE, George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984. At once nationally rooted and internationally oriented, these projects intersected with and thus altered the trajectories of the global Cold War.

This workshop will explore the global history of the Cold War era from perspectives outside its usual framing and focus on actors outside geopolitical war-rooms.  We are interested in the meanings and makings of the Third World articulated by yearnings for freedom in Asia, Africa, and Latin America from around the time of the post-WW II decolonization to the late 1970s.  These projects are familiar in separate broad strokes. Yet, little is known about how they became international. How did dependency theory, for example, acquire global circulation? How did Mao and Che images become iconic and with what consequences? How did these developments intersect with and challenge the activities of the Congress for Cultural Freedom or the British Council, and with those of their Soviet counterparts? At a time when a relentless globalization is met with retreats to national borders globally, we ask participants to revisit the moment when national freedom projects were unabashedly international because they envisioned alternative world orders, and explore the historical conditions of their possibility. Accordingly, we invite papers on visual culture, literature, journalism, the circulation of academic writings. We also ask participants to consider the role of official and non-official institutions and agencies – from foundations and publishing houses to news agencies and recording studios – that disseminated cultural understandings of freedom in the Third World moment and the ways in which they framed what might be called the “global cultural cold wars.”

Sponsored by
Program in South Asian Studies and Fung Global Fellows Program