RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017

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242 Anti-Colonialism and the Spaces of Political Negotiation (2): Diplomatic Spaces
Affiliation Historical Geography Research Group
Political Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Jake Hodder (University of Nottingham, UK)
Stephen Legg (University of Nottingham, UK)
Chair(s) Stephen Legg (University of Nottingham, UK)
Timetable Thursday 31 August 2017, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Room 120
Session abstract One form of decolonising geographical thought entails the rooting out of lost histories to highlight the actions and politics of subjugated peoples, places and forms of knowledge. In general this involves seeking out acts of “resistance”, refusal and autonomy. In the context of Empire, this work has usually entailed studying the people and spaces of radical anti-colonialism: mass protest movements on the streets; the transitory lives of exiled revolutionaries; or the construction of alternative and utopian communities. These forms of anti-colonial politics were, however, only one part of a broader collection of people, places and politics through which anti-colonialism operated. The romance and audacity of radical anti-colonialism was as attractive at the time as it is to many now. Equally important but less studied, however, was the anti-colonial activism of ‘moderates’; from pressure groups and civil servants to political negotiators and diplomats. That these groups were disregarded as moderates both then and now, belies the way in which many individuals alternated between moderate and radical, official and unofficial, capitalising on opportunities to articulate and realise their anti-colonial ambitions. These workers thrashed out reforms with colonial officials and diplomats, brought together members to debate and campaign, consulted international experts, and created agonistic spaces for deeply anti-colonial yet moderate politics. In this panel we seek to widen the lens of anti-colonialism within geography, to explore its full array of political lives and spaces of resistance. This involves a closer examination of the varied formal and informal spaces through which anti-colonial politics was negotiated, whether the Club, the home, the Palace, the office, the hotel, the bar, the restaurant or the conference, framed through these questions: How did the material stetting of diplomatic and constitutional negotiations effect the content of those negotiations?; How stage managed were these settings and how did certain performances result?; What can we know about the political atmospheres of these meetings?; How significant was travel to these meetings? How were people made mobile?; Through which events did ‘radical’ and ‘moderate’ nationalists meet?; How did these historical geographies work to create anti-colonial worlds, or perform post-colonial futures?
Linked Sessions Anti-Colonialism and the Spaces of Political Negotiation (1): Event Spaces
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2017@rgs.org
“The Demands of Dutiful Subjects”: Mapping Moderate Calls for Reform from London to Ceylon at the Turn of the 20th Century
Andi Schubert (Social Scientists’ Association, Sri Lanka)
Ceylon’s Crewe-McCallum Reforms of 1912 introduced the right of franchise to a select class of local subjects in the colony. This paper challenges the perception that the introduction of franchise was a result of Europe’s desire to spread liberal political values to the colonies. Instead, it traces the speedy transformation of the metropole’s policy against introducing far reaching political reforms to Ceylon in 1906 to the radical decision to establish a separate electoral roll for educated and wealthy Ceylonese by the end of 1909. Moving from London to Colombo, this paper argues that this change of policy was heavily influenced by a moderate local elite produced by Ceylon’s encounter with the metropole. Their influence was shaped by their capacity to position themselves as moderates in relation to what was taking place in India and interlocutors for the larger Ceylonese population who were ‘unexposed’ to ‘modern’ governance. The examination of their claims through memoranda submitted by the local population to the metropole as well as the official correspondence between colonial authorities in London and Ceylon challenges us to re-consider how normative appraisals of modernity and governance are frequently deployed to evaluate the spread of ‘modernity’ to the Global South. This paper not only suggests that such evaluations are pre-mature but work to mask the complex, inter-connected routes through which ‘modern’ forms of governance traveled across the metropole and the colonies.
The political spaces of the New Commonwealth, 1947-1964
Michael Ratnapalan (Yonsei University, South Korea)
The New Commonwealth, which describes the expanded association of Britain and its dominions after South Asian independence, has been under-studied in histories of modern anti-colonialism. The New Commonwealth absorbed many Indian, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan politicians and officials who had campaigned as anti-colonial nationalist subjects of the British Empire. As Commonwealth members, they were generally moderate figures who attended Prime Ministers’ meetings and associated conferences from the late 1940s onwards. This paper explores significant questions that this raises about the relationship between anti-colonialism and the spaces of political action. How did the presence of the new Asian, and subsequently African, members affect the club-like atmosphere of the old Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ meetings and encourage anti-colonial politics? How far did the influential Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s preference for smaller, personal meeting spaces shape New Commonwealth consultations and key decisions, such as the 1961 exclusion of South Africa? How can archival material such as video footage and political memoirs help in understanding the atmosphere at the meetings? In what ways did this age of expanding air travel influence the political timing and diplomatic protocols associated with the meetings? What can we infer from the fact that the New Commonwealth brought together moderate anti-colonialists such as Nehru and apartheid ideologues such as H. F. Verwoerd, about the negotiation of political space by ideologically opposed figures? What does the breakdown in the liberal ideology of the New Commonwealth during this period tell us about the prospects for multiracial internationalism?
Constructing an anti-colonial Commonwealth through every day diplomacy
Ruth Craggs (King’s College London, UK)
The Commonwealth is little studied as an international institution, often dismissed as (neo)colonial on the one hand, or simply irrelevant on the other. Yet in the middle decades of the twentieth century, and particularly after the Commonwealth gained its own Secretariat and Secretary General in 1965, the organisation became, amongst other things, an important space for anti-colonial speech and action, and a meeting place for the leaders of newly independent countries and politicians in Britain. In this period, the Commonwealth had to work hard to claim new legitimacy with a generation of anti colonial nationalists who were now independence leaders, whilst also maintaining good relations with Britain. Drawing on oral history interviews with many of those politicians and diplomats involved with the Commonwealth after 1965, the paper explores how in this period the Commonwealth was constructed as a critical if moderate and elite anti-colonial space. It argues that an important but overlooked part of this construction was the everyday practices (from dress, to conferencing, from long-distance phone calls to car number plates) of the early Commonwealth Secretaries-General.
Negotiating anti-colonialism: the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Fiona McConnell (University of Oxford, UK)
This paper examines contemporary negotiations of anti-colonial politics at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Permanent Forum was established in 2000 with the mandate to deal with indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. Underpinning these issues are demands for justice against contemporary ‘European’ and Non-European colonial authorities. Based on participant observation and interviews at the sixteenth session of the Permanent Forum this paper asks how representatives of indigenous communities articulate negotiation and resistance in the one of the epicentres of formal international diplomacy. Attention will be paid, first, to how particular political subjectivities emerge and are fostered at the conference, whereby indigenous activists assume the role of diplomats. This will be traced in terms of the discourses through which anti-colonial claims are articulated and the tension between performances of diplomatic decorum and expressions of indigenous autonomy. Second, the paper will examine the spaces of resistance and negotiation within and beyond the forum, from the staging of side events to closed door meetings and the forging of connections between this formal setting of international diplomacy and on the ground activism.