|Zambia's first president, Kenneth Kaunda|
Tuesday night I attended the winter commencement at UNLV, and it was nice to see students and their families celebrating the end of an important journey. On a more immediate level, commencement marked the end of the semester, and a break from teaching-related duties (although syllabus planning will be on my mind during the holiday).
The winter “holiday” will involve a week-and-a-half excursion to California. But it’s also an opportunity to get some work done. One of my more exciting tasks this break will be to put together some new archival material and write a conference paper based on that material.
Most historians take in at least a conference or two each year, either to present their own research or to moderate panels of scholars with a similar interest. One of my favorite conferences is the Pacific Coast Conference in British Studies, a vibrant, regional conference that, as the name suggests, consists of people studying Britain and its relation to the world and its empire.
Nearly three years ago, while looking for references to corruption in the Kenyan wildlife sector in the 1960s and 1970s in the National Archives of Britain, I stumbled across some records that caught my eye. I took some notes and set them aside, and am only now having the opportunity to re-visit them.
One of the terms that historians of empire discuss is “neo-colonialism.” The assumption behind the term, which is generally applied to the period after the 1950s and ‘60s (the decades when most European colonies in Asia and Africa won their independence), is that the end to formal colonialism didn’t mark the end of colonial relationships. [For example, the U.S. does not possess a territorial empire, but it uses various military and economic tools to project its power across large swathes of the world.] Historians have discussed how in economic, political, social, and cultural terms former colonial powers—Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands—continued to exert degrees of influence in their former colonies.
I intend to write about how in Zambia, a British colony that became an independent nation in 1964, the process of decolonization and the nature of neo-colonialism was shaped by a series of negotiations with the British government: negotiations about the sale of arms from Britain to Zambia; negotiations about security and responsibility in light of the emergence of a white supremacist state on Zambia’s southern border; and negotiations within the Zambian state about limiting the influence of expatriates within the government and its institutions.
The paper is provisionally titled “Mammon and Mars on the Zambezi: Decolonizing Zambia during UDI,” and I am hoping for a productive break to sort through archival material and begin writing!