Decolonizing Intermediaries: African Women’s Delegations to China 1960-1976

SOAS Centre of African Studies

Monday, Feb 28, 2022
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM (UTC)

Registration Required

Hosts

SOAS Centre of African Studies

Languages

English
English

Channels

Gender

Virt Africa

During the Cold War the Chinese government invited delegations of women from newly independent East African countries to travel to China, where they could see for themselves the achievements of China’s revolutionary modernization. Archival records show that these African women were not just a passive audience being escorted from one “Potemkin Village” to another. Rather, they actively engaged with their hosts and with one another in negotiating personal, national and international agendas. Women leaders understood that the official and performative aspects of their visits were part of the dynamic surface of an ever-changing “code of friendship” in which they played a key role as audience, participants and reciprocal hosts. They functioned as intermediaries among nations as they navigated twentieth century conduits of cultural and civic diplomacy. Like the African intermediaries of the colonial period, women within delegations were translators, cultural brokers, and producers of certain forms of knowledge. Their acts of mediation allowed them to negotiate and contest competing positions in Cold War politics, including its reification of sameness and difference, of friends and enemies.

Hosts

SOAS Centre of African Studies