Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mau Mau and British Colonial Violence

Despite attempts to rehabilitate British colonialism in the age of American neo-imperialism, history refuses to exonerate "liberal empire" in Africa as it will condemn equally the US's invasion and occupation of Iraq. Radio Bandung explores the violent history of "decolonization" in Kenya where British authorities and colonial settlers waged a brutal war against the so-called "Mau Mau". While the "Mau Mau" are synonymous with violent terror in Anglophone popular culture, in fact British officials mercilessly detained, tortured and killed thousands of Kikuyu demanding "Land and Freedom" and an end to British colonialism. Prof. Caroline Elkins of Harvard University (http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu/~history/facultyPage.cgi?id=39) catalogues this horrific history and discusses her important book, which has been a lightning rod for right-wing criticism particularly in Britain, "Imperial Reckoning: the Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya." We discuss the reception of the book and its resonances with contemporary debates about imperialism.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Haiti and Post-Colonial Culture

The true beginning of third world liberation and postcolonial history came perhaps with the Haitian Revolution, the founding of the first free black republic and the first new world state to abolish slavery. Enlightenment values in the Caribbean, the first real test to the "universal" doctrines of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" and, especially, "Liberte, Egalite, et Fraternite!" The Spirit of Bandung lived among the "Black Jacobins"! What is the importance of the Haitian Revolution for later struggles for liberation in the Caribbean, in Africa under colonialism? How has the subsequent history of Haiti also tragically typified the challenges of postcolonial national movements elsewhere? Dr. Chris Bongie of Queen's English department, foremost scholar of Haiti in literature and Caribbean post-colonial culture generally, talks with Radio Bandung about the great revolution; its effect on the Caribbean and postcolonial literature, culture, and history; and the way it is remembered in culture.