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Talking History

E. P. Thompson, C. L. R. James, and the Afterlives of Internationalism

Utathya Chattopadhyaya

In 1983, H. O. Nazareth directed a film called Talking History, which brought together E. P. Thompson and C. L. R. James in conversation. The soundtrack was composed by Spartacus R, former bassist for the Black Rock band, Osibisa. Over the twenty years since the publication of The Making of the English Working Class in 1963, Thompson had confronted several questions around colonialism, law, and constitutionalism that had not found emphasis in The Making. Talking History marks a unique point in the trajectory of Thompson's engagement with some of those questions, while simultaneously revealing the limits of that engagement. In addition to being a useful window into the political worldview of James and Thompson in the early 1980s, the film is also demonstrative of the afterlives of internationalism in the twentieth century. This article argues that revisiting internationalism, as a practice of political activism and critical dialogue, with its possibilities and limits, allows us to carefully rethink some of our contemporary political and intellectual practices.

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Translated Objects

The Olov Janse Case

Johan Hegardt and Anna Källén

This article explores the movements of archaeological and ethnographic objects and museum collections connected with the Swedish-born archaeologist and ethnographer Olov R. T. Janse (1892–1985). Janse pursued a cosmopolitan career in the years between 1920 and 1960, in and between the national contexts of Sweden, France, Indochina, the Philippines, and the United States, where he found himself in different political contexts such as colonialism, nationalism, and the Cold War. He initiated object exchanges between French and Swedish museums, and he collected archaeological and ethnographic objects from Indochina and the Philippines for museums in Sweden, France, and the United States. The complexity of object movements in the wake of Olov Janse's career suggests that we should think and talk about object mobility in terms of translation rather than simple transmission. In seven sections, each exploring one chapter of Janse's life, we discuss how changes in world politics became entangled with changes in Janse's own position as an archaeologist and ethnographer, affecting the movements of objects and contributing to an active translation of their meaning.

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The Fate of Fishing in Tsarist Russia

The Human-Fish Nexus in Lake Baikal

Nicholas B. Breyfogle

This article explores the history of fishing on Lake Baikal in an effort to understand the fish-human nexus, to expand our understandings of the Russian relationship to the environment before the twentieth century, and to think about the colonial encounter in Siberia from an environmental angle. Fishing has long been a crucial, life-sustaining, and culturally important component of life at Baikal; and fish and people have long existed in mutually influential and intertwined webs of relations. Fish populations declined markedly in Baikal from the late eighteenth century on-a drop with which Soviet fishers and policymakers continued to struggle throughout the twentieth century. The fate of Baikal's fish was the result of 1) the tax-farming, market-based economic structures of tsarist colonialism and 2) the new fishing technologies that Russian settlers brought with them to the practice of fishing-both of which were "revolutionary" transformations from the pre-colonial Buriat and Evenk fishing methods and systems. Notably, this massive fish population decrease came about before any industrial change affected the area. Humans, this story shows, do not need to have industrial machines with their extractive capabilities and pollution by-products in order to bring about systemic ecological and evolutionary changes.

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Missionaries and Colonialism in a Postcolonial Museum

Or, How a Finnish Peasant Can Become an African Folk Hero

Ian Fairweather

This article sets out to locate a particular postcolonial museum in its historical context, concentrating on local responses to change. It focuses on the specific historical interaction between villagers in northern Namibia and Finnish missionaries, and demonstrates that the dynamics of this interaction have led the villagers to remember the past in terms of a cleavage between pagans and Christians that is played out in the regular performances that take place for foreign visitors at the Nakambale museum. I argue that the performance of ‘tradition’ allows local people to transform the narrative presented in the physical layout of the museum into one that both emphasizes their own historical agency and demonstrates their contemporary Christian identities. The traditional/modern dichotomy implied by the museum’s narrative of the civilizing influence, brought by Christianity, provides them with an opportunity to do just that.

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The German Colonies in Die Weltgeschichte als Kolonialgeschichte

The Use of Filmic Techniques in Colonial Revisionism in the 1920s

Michael Annegarn-Gläß

Academic history has begun only relatively recently to study films as historical sources, and thus far it has focused principally on feature films to the exclusion of nonfictional cinema, despite the use of educational films for propaganda as early as the interwar period. This essay examines the extent to which educational films of this period employed a range of techniques to reach their viewers and encouraged them to take the film’s argumentation on board. Categorizing these techniques as either narrative strategies or visual effects, we contextualize their use by taking the film Die Weltgeschichte als Kolonialgeschichte (“World History as Colonial History,” 1926) as an example.

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“Algeria for the Algerians”

Public Education and Settler Identity in the Early Third Republic

Kyle Francis

This article uses an 1881 revolt by settler students at the normal school of Algiers to explore issues of settler identity formation, anticlericalism, and racism. It argues that in the early Third Republic, settlers began to see the public school as a key site for creating a distinctly “Algerian” identity, one that excluded both Algerian Muslims and even new arrivals from the metropole. In this effort, settlers sought to implement radical versions of French republicanism and anticlericalism that were in reality highly restrictive, as they combined both metropolitan disdain for Catholicism and colonial scorn towards Islam. The investigations precipitated by the revolt reveal a colony and metropole whose fundamental concepts took shape in circuit between France and Algeria. The version of republicanism that emerged in Algeria served as an important precursor for the exclusive republicanism and its prohibitions on the public expression of faith in the ascendency in France today.

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Mark S. Micale

The Better Angels of Our Nature is severely compromised by an overly narrow conception of human violence, a cramped statistical source base, and ideologically predetermined interpretations. Despite its aspirations to comprehensive coverage, the work singularly fails to incorporate violence of a colonial, or indigenous, or environmental, or biological, or technological nature. Ultimately, Pinker’s lengthy, attention-grabbing tome is most noteworthy for what it leaves out.

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Under the Shadow of Empire

Indigenous Girls' Presencing as Decolonizing Force

Sandrina de Finney

This article calls for a reconceptualization of Indigenous girlhoods as they are shaped under a western neocolonial state and in the midst of overlapping forms of colonial violence targeting Indigenous girls. By disrupting the persistent construction of Indigenous girl bodies as insignificant and dispensable, I explore alternative conceptualizations of trauma, place, and girlhood that might enact a more critical, politicized girlhood studies. I link this analysis to Leanne Simpson's (2011) notion of “presence” as a form of decolonizing resurgence. Drawing from participatory research studies and community-change projects conducted with and by Indigenous girls between the ages of 12 and 19 years in western British Columbia, Canada, girls' everyday processes of resurgence and presencing are highlighted in the hope of expanding understandings of their cumulative effects as decolonizing forces.

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More Than a Two-Way Traffic

Analyzing, Translating, and Comparing Political Concepts from other Cultures

Melvin Richter

In this article, the author examines the case of the Chinese reception of Western political and social concepts as an example to discuss the substantive issues involved in the circulation of concepts between Europe and other parts of the world. Translation and adaptation are key steps in this process of circulation. The question however is not to investigate whether the transposed concept is an accurate transcription of the original, but to understand how this concept acquires new meanings and rhetorical functions within the political and ideological disputes of the society to which is has been transposed. Thus, translation should be understood as a complex, multilayered process of intercultural communication whose result is affected by inequalities of power, but still open to multiple outcomes of agency, even when exercised in colonial or semi-colonial settings.

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More Than a Two-Way Traffic

Analyzing, Translating, and Comparing Political Concepts from other Cultures

Melvin Richter

In this article, the author examines the case of the Chinese reception of Western political and social concepts as an example to discuss the substantive issues involved in the circulation of concepts between Europe and other parts of the world. Translation and adaptation are key steps in this process of circulation. The question however is not to investigate whether the transposed concept is an accurate transcription of the original, but to understand how this concept acquires new meanings and rhetorical functions within the political and ideological disputes of the society to which is has been transposed. Thus, translation should be understood as a complex, multilayered process of intercultural communication whose result is affected by inequalities of power, but still open to multiple outcomes of agency, even when exercised in colonial or semi-colonial settings.