Meghan & Harry: ‘the trendy transnational couple’

Reading the news this morning, I (unsurprisingly) found that almost every article on the home page was about the coronavirus pandemic, ranging from a governmental crackdown on fake news to its potential impact on university admissions to a limited though important attempt at providing some positive spin on the crisis through an article entitled ‘Coronavirus: People making a difference’. However, there was one article on this page not about the coronavirus, featuring (again, unsurprisingly for the British media) the Royal Family, specifically Prince Harry & Meghan’s move to California, President Trump’s tweet refusing to pay for their security and their response that they had never intended to make such a request. Despite not having a particular interest in the activity of the Royal Family, but fatigued by the domination of the coronavirus across the internet, I found myself reading this article, and it had me thinking about the couple as transnational actors and their experiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

As we observed earlier in this semester in the cases of historical actors such as Eunice Connolly, one’s experiences of self can change quite significantly when moved across geographical borders. While, due to a more culturally contiguous relationship between the UK and the USA than, for example, Connolly experienced in her move from the USA to the West Indies in the 19th century, Meghan & Harry’s experiences of their gender, race and social class are unlikely to be as seismically impacted, their transnational movement could instead represent a more symbolic transformation. In the UK, as ‘senior royals’ within the British monarchy, the couple were entitled to certain luxuries as complete economic support from the British government and (limited) privacy from media and press intrusion, as generally exercised by the British media towards the Royal Family (although, particularly in Harry & Meghan’s case, this is becoming less respected and increasingly intrusive). However, their residence in the USA brings no such support and protection, as now formally confirmed by President Trump, and so financial independence is required to support both their lifestyle and their safety. Their transnational movement has facilitated this process of total emancipation, financial and otherwise, from the British Royal Family, and while they are unlikely to be stuck for opportunities to generate revenue in the USA, the move will likely mark a significant transition in Harry and Meghan’s lived experiences and an important event in the history of the institution of the British monarchy.

As their ‘Independence Day’ (as termed by the tabloid British media) approaches – the day where they officially no longer formally represent the Queen or act as senior royals – the Duke & Duchess of Sussex’s relocation to California and promise to divide their time between the UK and the USA becomes another cultural bridge connecting the UK and the USA; politically (and perhaps naively) interpreted as strengthening the ’special relationship’. Their hope, however, is that life in America will bring safety and security to them and their family, away from the spotlight of the British press. However, although they will not be performing public royal duties while they are in the UK, as once-senior royals, the British press, and thus the British public, will always remain interested in their activities. Therefore, the extent to which this transnational movement will mark a permanent change to their lives remains to be seen.

The Transnational Life of Madam C.J. Walker

This Spring Break has been unusual, to say the least. Like a lot of us I presume, I spent a large portion of my time heavily procrastinating and watching a lot of Netflix. A few days ago I came across Netflix’s new mini series starring Octavia Spencer, Self-made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker. Per its title, the series focuses on the life of Madam C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove), an African American woman who started her own hair products and cosmetics line the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company in 1910, eventually becoming America’s first female self-made millionaire. 

Walker’s idea for her business arose from her own hair loss, and the lack of hair products available at the time for black women. Walker’s pitch was that of empowering black women through making them feel beautiful and advocating for more businesses owned and ran by black women. Hers was not only a fight for representation, but also a fight against Eurocentric beauty standards and breaking away from the traditional Gibson Girl image of the early 20th century. Beyond her business, Walker was a dedicated philanthropist and restlessly fought against racism, colonialism, imperialism and in favour of women’s rights. 

I was particularly drawn to this series as my project for this class is focused on first wave feminist movements, happening at the very same time as Walker is starting her own business and becoming an activist. I am very much a visual learner and although I know that historical films or series are almost never accurate (even in terms of costumes, setting, mannerisms etc), being able to see these movements on the screen really helped me imagine what the lives of these women were like. It was very interesting for me to see these meetings and female led organisations on screen because often the challenges Walker found in bringing African American women into organised activism were very similar to the challenges that the women I have been researching for my project faced. The task was to create female led organisations which acted for the needs and experiences of black women – questions of activism relating to identity –  which were dramatically different to those of white women in America at the time as in my project, the Latin American women I researched are searching for very much the same things.

With a little bit of research, I discovered that beyond her domestic endeavours, Madam C.J. Walker was very much a transnational actor, involved in projects of Pan-Africanism and self-determination. Walker provided much of the financial backing for the Universal Negro Improvement Association, founded in Jamaica, and contributed funds to education in African countries. Moreover, she founded the International League of Darker Peoples (ILDP) on January 2nd 1919, and international organisation committed to advocating the for the rights of marginalised people and fighting imperialism at a transnational level. Interestingly, the ILDP was not only committed to African Americans or Pan-Africanism but all racially marginalised people across the globe, leading a powerful initiative for Afro-Asian solidarity,  working with S.Kurowia, a Japanese delegate to the Paris Peace Conference in raising questions of colonialism in the conference.

Although I haven’t dug deep into the research surrounding the life and endeavours of Madam C.J. Walker, I can see that there is a lot of relevant scholarship that could be produced on her life. From a quick search I realised that although biographical accounts on Walker are plentiful, there are few chapters or articles on her transnational work. This would be a great way for me to build upon my work on transitional first wave feminism after I finish looking at Latin America. Perhaps watching Netflix this Spring Break wasn’t only procrastination!


100 Years of Solitude

Following up on Isabel’s blog post title, I thought I’d provide my own Marquez novel title, equally relevant to the unprecedented levels of seclusion and social isolation experienced by many during this corona crisis. ‘100 years’ is blatantly hyperbolic, but it does echo the uncertainty surrounding the end-date of this current state of affairs. When will things return to normal? – the thought on everyone’s minds. What people ought to be asking is the extent to which things will return to normal, as it seems unlikely that this event will fail to trigger some lasting shift in the status quo. Surely some positives can be drawn from this sudden slowing down of modern society’s frantic pace. Quarantine puts many aspects of life on pause, which is a shock but also an opportunity to breathe, take stock and recalibrate. Solitude can be difficult, a test of character, but it can also provide space in which to reflect, silence amidst the cacophony of everyday life in which, perhaps, some form of clarity can be attained.

Solitude is not necessarily the dominant force, however. It is counterbalanced by an equally important phenomenon during this pandemic: solidarity. I don’t wish to sound overly idealistic, but it is impressive the way people have rallied in the face of the corona threat. Even the economy, the driving force of our capitalist society built on the precept of competition, has been put to one side in a massive, near-unanimous effort to place human health as the number one priority. Simply by staying at home in self-isolation, people are protecting others who may be more at risk. Health-workers (including my aunt here in Geneva) are working day and night to provide support for patients who have contracted the virus, placing themselves at risk through their efforts to help. Musicians are providing free, live-streamed concerts from their living rooms to provide distraction for the quarantined millions. Solidarity is everywhere, linking people in spite of physical distance.

At this time, relationships between family members become more important than ever, a test which many households are sadly struggling with, as shown by the spike in domestic violence in the UK. This adds a bit of nuance to my idealistic diatribe; some people can’t deal with constant proximity to others, tensions rise, and violence ensues. But I’d argue that such reactions weren’t created by the corona crisis, but were instead revealed by it. In solitude, everything comes to the fore: the positive, the negative, the need to help, the need for change.

Love in the time of Corona

Excuse this week’s title, but it’s a phrase I’ve kept coming back to over the last week. I was in the short loan section of the library a couple weeks ago and saw a few people had put Love in the Time of Cholera on hold, which seemed apt and if anything, a little ironic. It perhaps goes hand in hand with other reports that Pandemic is one of the most watched shows on Netflix as of late. It made me think more about dating and long distance relationships in this uncertain time, which, although could be seen as a relatively modern phenomenon, is probably one of the most common types of transnational exchange. If we think about how much of our history is shaped by letters and correspondence, even within our own course and the microhistories, biographies and such we have read- a fair amount has been between people who were in love but could not be together at the time.

Artists, politicians, writers have become famous for the sonnets, songs and poems crafted remotely and because of distance. This reiterates the importance of space within a study of global history, how the fact we write history/books/letters apart shapes the way in which we behave together. It begs the question of what time and distance does to writing, and research and the way in which things are composed. For scholars to work together previously, they would have to relay their ideas between each other, copy out new findings before hoping that it reaches their colleague or friend. The same can be said for academia today perhaps. The situation we find ourselves in will surely change the dynamic of the class because we are no all sat around a table in St Katherine’s Lodge, instead waiting for the audio feedback on Microsoft Teams to die down, and avoid talking over each other from the comfort of our own homes.

But back to the issue of letters, and long-distance transnational relationships. James Joyce wrote famously raunchy letters to his wife Nora Barnacle (which are amusing but perhaps not entirely class appropriate), Frida Kahlo’s letters exposed her more sensitive side, even exposing Oscar Wilde’s forbidden romance with Lord Alfred Douglas. Even my own grandparents. One of my long-standing unfinished projects (maybe I’ll finally get round to it in isolation) is digitising the letters my grandparents sent each other when they were courting for a year in 1960. Having both been trained as librarians, the letters are very well catalogued. It brings up a question I routinely come back to within my research and these blogs, that transnational links are often personal ones. We learn more about these well-known individuals through their letters, as the sources are ones not originally intended for the public eye. In this context, we gain a better understanding of their personalities, which contributes to a more rounded social and cultural history.

A few days ago, a question was posed during one of Boris Johnson’s press conferences, following the call he made to essentially put the UK in lockdown. If one has a significant other, are they allowed to visit/hang out/go on as usual? The response that they should perhaps use this as an opportunity to test their relationship by moving with each other, seemed blunt. I wonder how many couples will plunge their relationships effectively into the deep end. It also made me think about people now separated, by different cities and countries. How will historians map correspondence in the time of coronavirus? Letters are a clear snapshot into how someone is feeling in a particular moment. Yet we cannot capture the videocalls, facetimes and other ways in which people date each other in this modern age in the same way. Zoom has recorded a spike in its downloads and usage, but these statistics tell us little about the sentiment around love in the time of corona. Are we able to link where these people are calling each other, whether or not there has been an increase in letter writing, the usage of online dating apps? How will we remember this pandemic in the future, in the romance novels, action films and memoirs that are written? I wonder if there will be micro historians who look back to our current social contexts and consider those who behaved and those who transgressed, and their reasons for doing so.  

Conjuring apples from the comfort of your home

Like so many others, the inspiration for my blog post this week comes from social distancing. This has been a hectic week. In the space of a few days, face-to-face teaching has been suspended at Universities and schools around the world – this includes St Andrews. Students have been nudged to go home, and to do so as soon as they can. Festivals, musicals, visits, and celebrations that we’ve been looking forward to for months – all cancelled. It’s a lot to digest, hence why so many people are writing about it. Writing, after all, ‘is a tool for thinking’; that’s what Bernhard said during our first seminar in February. So, if that’s the case, it makes perfect sense to see so many of my peers put their thoughts and feelings out on paper or on a blog. Writing helps people grasp the realities of their situations.

Contrary to the title, I’m not going to be teaching you any fancy spells, like the sort you see in Harry Potter. Instead, I’m writing because I wanted to provide you, the reader, some solace in these anxious times. And what better way to do this by applying some of the things we’ve studied in transnational history to our present situation? Although social distancing means that we won’t be seeing each other in person, this doesn’t mean that we’re alone. By teaching us to focus on the way people come to be entangled with one another, Transnational History teaches us that our lives are all connected, even if we do not realise it.

I hold this belief especially after reading about Global Intellectual History, which will be our topic of discussion after the break. After doing these readings, I’ve come to believe that the concept of ‘being transnational’ does not necessarily have to be a physical process, i.e. in the act of sending a postcard from Dundee to a village in the Czech Republic. In actuality, being ‘transnational’ can be an invisible process, something that can occur solely in our minds.

Consider the following thought experiment. If I told you to imagine an ‘apples’, you could do so without having seen one in person. In fact, most languages have a word for ‘apple’, so if I told a group of people to imagine a ‘manzana‘ or ‘蘋果’, they could also conjure up the image of a bright red, crisp, and juicy fruit. The concept of an ‘apple’, therefore, is arguably transnational as most people nowadays know what an apple is. Moreover, the fact that you can conjure up the image of an apple without seeing one in front of you demonstrates that people can access transnational concepts without moving to see them. For a more historical example, take a concept, like ‘colonialism’. Admittedly, you would be hard-pressed to conjure up an image of ‘colonialism’. Nevertheless, with a little bit of background knowledge, you could understand what that concept means, and how they have come to influence so many people in the world. Moreover, you could also learn how colonialism can ‘breathe the air of specific cultural locales’ it inhabits, shape-shifting to fit the specificities of a locality. [1] Overall, Global Intellectual History forces historians to consider that minds are not confined to the immediate physical space around us. Because so many people share the same concepts and types of experiences, one could develop a transnational history that looks critically at the way transnational concepts manifest in any specific context. As such, the mind can, and ought to be considered, another theatre through which transnational history takes place.

In turn, this opens up transnational history to some pretty radical arguments. If people can be transnational simply through the act of sharing concepts with others, then does this imply that people that have never travelled can be transnational? Indeed, Dominic Sachsenmaier takes this radical line of argument in his book, Global Entanglements of a Man Who Never Travelled: A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Christian and his Conflicted Worlds. In his monograph, Sachsenmaier takes Zhu Zongyuan 朱宗元, a Chinese-Christian who never left the core regions of Zhejiang province, as his focal point. [2]

Although not as well-travelled as his peers, Zhu engaged with and hybridised traditional Chinese concepts and Catholicism. ‘Christianity alone,’ he wrote. ‘Was able to show the proper way to understand the content of the [Confucian] classics’. [3] For Zhu, then, the West was superior to China. Not only did Christianity position the West above the East, but as the quote above demonstrates, Zhu also believed that Christianity and Confucianism were compatible, and that reading one could help your understanding of the other. In arguing for such positions, Zhu thus engaged in wider debates about the universality of Confucianism, China’s perception of itself as ‘zhongguo’ 中國, the ‘middle’ or ‘centre’ of the world, and thus China’s power vis-à-vis the West. Zhu’s intellectual engagement, therefore, is what leads Sachsenmaier to argue that he was a transnational individual despite the fact he never left his locality. By engaging with both Catholicism and Confucianism, Zhu acted as a connector between his local Catholic community and other Chinese Christian groups, and also between European missionary networks and his local circles in late Ming society. [4] Overall, Global Entanglements teaches us that transnationalism is thus as much a mental experience as it is physical. Even when confined to the limits of a specific locality, individuals can still be transnational by engaging with mental concepts and experiences shared by groups of people.

I find this message incredibly powerful. As I sit at home and watch the sun stream through my window, I find comfort in the fact that other people can conjure up images of apples in their minds. We may all be stuck at home, but the doesn’t mean that our connections with other people have been severed. Invisible transnational linkages still exist in my mind, and yours, and these linkages are ultimately what bind us and the wider world together. So, if you’re ever feeling down about social distancing, think of an apple; hopefully, that will make you smile.

Works Cited:

[1] Milinda Banerjee, ‘Transversal Histories and Transcultural Afterlives: Indianized Renditions of Jean Bodin in Global Intellectual History.’ In Engaging Transculturality: Concepts, Key Terms, Case Studies, edited by Laila Abu-er-Rub, Christiane Brosius, Sebastian Meurer, Diamantis Panagiotopoulos, and Susan Richter (2019), p. 155

[2] Dominic Sachsenmaier, Global Entanglements of a Man Who Never Travelled: A Seventeenth Century Chinese-Christian and his Conflicted Worlds (2018), p. 1

[3] Ibid, p. 97

[4] Ibid, p. 5

The Translation of Transnational Concepts

On the back of the purchase of Global Conceptual History: A Reader (thank you again, Bernhard), I thought it at least warranted a discussion in a blog post. In their introduction, Margrit Pernau & Dominic Sachsenmaier argue for the importance of a consideration of conceptual history on a global scale as part of the furthering of our historical understandings, suggesting that ‘it is through concepts… that actors make sense of their experiences and create the knowledge about the world they are living in, which in turn permits them to act meaningfully’.[1] While existing scholarship has traced the movement of these concepts, in the form of both language and pictorial representations, across geographic boundaries, Pernau & Sachsenmaier suggest that there has been little focus on the linguistic borders that exist to define and divide nation-states. These play a significant role in global conceptual history, as we must consider the role of translation in the movement, understanding and application of these concepts. Indeed, as Pernau and Sachsenmaier suggest, the translations of these concepts into the appropriate language ‘bring together the actors’ interpretations of the world they are living in and constitute the basis for all meaningful action’.[2] 

Most of the discussion throughout the book is focused on the importance of linguistics in the global movement of concepts, as the act of translation has been recognised as a fundamental process that heavily influences the perception of the concept, and thus places the translator as a central actor in globalisation. However, in the context of my project, considering the movement of concepts transnationally from the United States of America to Northern Ireland, two English-speaking locations, such acts of linguistic translation do not occur. However, I think there is something to be said for cultural translation, dictated primarily by social, economic and political factors (amongst others), that influences the reception and application of these concepts when they move transnationally. Indeed, as Jani Marjanen suggests, ‘transnational conceptual history can also debunk a more universalistic take on concepts by illustrating how the translation of concepts into new languages or political cultures always entails a reinterpretation and adaptation of the concepts’.[3]

One particular concept that moved transnationally from the United States to Northern Ireland and can be seen to have been reinterpreted and adapted, is ‘nonviolence’. While defining the term is challenging, Mahatma Gandhi referred to the ‘science of nonviolence’ and suggested that the best results for social change were to be achieved when ‘a mainly nonviolent action works as a catalyst for a mainly violent reaction’.[4] Such an approach can be seen in both the American and Northern Irish contexts, but ultimately the difference came down to control. Although the movement in Northern Ireland had begun as a nonpartisan class-based struggle against discrimination, challenging the status quo through nonviolent means, the variety of aims that existed within the sub-groups who had combined under the umbrella of organisations such as the NICRA, whether religious, nationalist or otherwise, led to inconsistent approaches across the movement and a descent into episodes of unprovoked violence, and there was no possibility of effective leadership to prevent such activity. While the leaders of the movement (the ‘translators’ of the transnational concept), such as Eamonn McCann, had intended their nonviolent activity to illustrate and advocate for equal civil liberties and the benefits of socialism against the current system, this was superseded, through a manipulation of the ‘translation’, by a concern for the age-old story about the sovereignty of Northern Ireland and its rightful place inside or outside the United Kingdom. As Simon Prince suggests, ‘the civil rights movement just became the current round in this struggle’.[5] 

So perhaps there is something to be said for the role of history, politics and social understandings of the past in the failure of an effective cultural translation of the concept of ‘nonviolence’ from the American civil rights movement? Given Northern Ireland’s violent past, were nonviolent methods, designed to provoke violent responses, ever going to work to achieve similar results to that they had achieved in the United States? These are questions that I want to explore further in my research. Prince argues that nonviolence ‘was parasitic on violence and was ultimately more overwhelmed by violence’ in Northern Ireland than in the United States and, as Martin Luther King said himself, ‘the aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness’; a theory that very much found reality in Northern Ireland.[6]

[1] Margrit Pernau & Dominic Sachsenmaier, ‘Introduction’ in Margrit Pernau & Dominic Sachsenmaier (eds.), Global Conceptual History: A Reader (London, 2016), p. 3

[2] Ibid., p. 2

[3] Jani Marjanan, ‘Transnational Conceptual History, Methodological Nationalism and Europe’ in Willibald Steinmetz, Michael Freeden & Javier Fernandez-Sebastian (eds.), Conceptual History in the European Space (New York, 2017), p. 143

[4] Simon Prince, ‘Pushing Luck Too Far: ’68, Northern Ireland and Nonviolence’ in Daniel J. Sherman et al. (eds.), The Long 1968: Revisions and New Perspectives (Bloomington, 2013), p. 141

[5] Ibid., p. 161

[6] Ibid., p. 160

A Transnational History of International Schools

On Saturday during the Unconference, a group of us had quite an interesting conversation regarding International Schools, and the social implications they have as well as the transnational net that they build. International Schools are usually private, English speaking schools set up across the globe, they usually follow the International Baccalaureate curriculum or other English speaking curriculums such as A levels or Advanced Placement Classes. In most cases, they harbour a tight knit community of expatriates and children of Diplomats who move around the globe from International School to International School – In my personal experience, around 75% of the students at my school were expatriates. In an article published by the UNESCO Institute for Educational Planning, they described the emergence of International Schools lying in the need to form a schooling not available through national curriculums, that is schools which provided an ‘International Education’.

Historically, International schools emerged in the mid-late 19th century, mostly for the children of Diplomats who were living abroad. The school I personally attended in Brazil was called Fundaçao Anglo-Brasileira de Educaçao e Cultura (Anglo-Brazilian foundation for education and culture), more than a school it was also a cultural centre in which expats could communicate in English and build a somewhat isolated international community, which basically lived their lives as if they were still in the U.K. rather than in Brazil. With the creation of the International Baccalaureate in 1968 there was now a more or less formalised curriculum for International Schools, one which although highly flexible for teachers in different countries, was centred around building a global mindset. When you attend international school, although your own nationality remains deeply important personally (especially when put in a context where everyone comes from a different place), nationalism is not something which is perpetrated by the school itself. There are no national anthems, there is no national flag, the curriculum is focused on ‘Global History’ rather than the history of the country the school is set up on, and the language is English. In one way or another, students in International Schools somewhat loose their national identities, as they slowly transition to a ‘global’ identity.

But what are the social implications of International Schools? For one, International Schools are educating and building a transnational network of elites. There is mom definitely an issue of class, as International schools are not only costly but sometimes not open to residents which are not expatriates. Most of the time, if you attend and International School and meet someone who has attended even if it’s all the way across the globe, chances are you have a mutual friend. It is a tight knit community, woven by things such as Model United Nations and international sporting events, and in some way or another, the experience of growing up somewhere you are not actually ‘from’. Moreover, the curriculum taught in Intentional Schools remains somewhat Eurocentric. I barely got to learn about Brazilian history (the country where I was living in) but have written more essays than I can count on Russia, the United States, England and France. Does ‘International Education’ mean a Western or European Education? and if so, if ‘International’ the right terms for it, or does it perpetrate an Eurocentric ideal in which even in the International, the Global South remains forgotten?

I cannot fit into this blogpost all of the ideas that I have regarding this topic, or my experiences and opinions. Don’t get me wrong, I loved attending International School, and it has without a doubt made me more accustomed to and also curious about different cultures, nationalities and identities. I believe that after 150 years of the inception of International Schools, they are now most definitely a relevant topic of analysis for Transnational History.  The effect these international networks have had on students, as well as the experience of being removed from a ‘national’ framework to an ‘International’ one can help historians map the impacts of globalisation through the 20th century, and also question, what is truly ‘International’.

The transnationalisation of Nazism

When Hitler blew his brains out in the ruins of Berlin, this was commonly thought to be the end of Nazism as an ideology. The far right would remain, of course. There had been reactionaries, even fascists, before Hitler. The world did not have enough luck that they would follow Hitler into the abyss. But Nazism? That was, surely, a dead letter. Today, in 2020, this has been tragically proved wrong. Neo-Nazism has undeniably returned. It has returned to politics, in the form of open “national socialists” like Richard Spencer. It has returned to our streets, with large Nazi rallies taking place in areas like Charlottesville and Portland. And it has begun to kill again. Multiple mass-shootings have occurred in the last few years that were directly motivated by Nazi ideology, most infamously the series of Mosque and Synagogue attacks. So how is it that Nazism was able to survive the death of its founder, and the destruction of his state? The root of this lies in a transnational network of former Nazis and their allies, particularly a woman by the name of Savitri Devi.

Devi was born Maximiani Portas in Lyon, France. Initially attracted to Hitler’s politics through her love of animals (she is also one of the foremothers of Deep Green politics) by the time of his death and the end of World War Two she was a deeply committed Nazi. During the war she had acted as a spy for the Axis in the British Raj, most notably facilitating the connection between the Japanese and INA leader Subas Chandra Bose. The Nazism of Devi had something entirely absent from what Hitler had in mind. Devi was, as might be expected from her changed name, a deeply committed Hindu. A key part of this Hinduism was a belief that Hitler was a reincarnation of the god Vishnu, the “Man Against Time” who had been sent to restore the world to the Golden Age from the current jewish dominated world order. Hitler’s failure was, in her eyes, a result of his overly generous and merciful acts, and his promised successor would correct these flaws. While this might seem ridiculous on its face, she was a respected figure in the international neo-nazi community. She was a founding member of the World Union of National Socialists, which was led by the English Colin Jordan and the American George Lincoln Rockwell, the man who popularised Holocaust denial. She was an associate of exile German Nazis like Otto Skorzeny, Johann von Leers, and Hans-Ulrich Rudel. It was claimed that she had been lovers with Francoise Dior, niece of the famous designers and the financier for much of the neo-nazi underground. Of all these her friendship with Rockwell is most important. Seeking a religious element to draw in those who pure Nazi politics could not reach, Rockwell energetically pushed Devi’s “Esoteric Hitlerism” as the new party line. It was only his murder in 1967 by a disgruntled former comrade that prevented it from taking more roots than it did. Devi was on route to America to lecture on her beliefs at the time of her death, and her ashes finished the journey, being laid to rest on Rockwell’s grave.

So it is clear that Devi lived a transnational life, part of a deep network of former Nazi officials and sympathisers which survived and came to flourish after the war. But that is not the only way in which we can see her as a transnational figure. In a way, transnationalism is what allowed Devi to save Nazism. By removing Nazism from the purely Germanic context it had existed in while in power, Devi made it a syncretic belief. Any cultural context could be neatly slid in to Nazism now. This was the transnationalisation of Hitlerism. It has grown and grown in the intervening years, especially as the internet made cross cultural communication easier than ever before. When neo-nazis claim to be Knights Templar and cry “Deus Vult”, there is Devi. Where groups like Atomwaffen and The Base consciously evoke the aesthetics of Islamism, there is Devi. And when men like Brenton Tarrent leave behind manifestos full of impenetrable internet in-jokes, there is Devi. Nazism is no longer tied to a single culture or nation, is far ideologically potent than it has been since the end of the war, and it is in large part to a single woman.

How the Other Half Lives: Slums in Media, 1890 vs Present day

In the late nineteenth century, the size and number of poverty-stricken slums in American cities exploded at an alarming rate. These slums had grown out of both the country’s rapid transformation into an industrial power following the American Civil War and from the arrival of a massive wave of unskilled southern and eastern European immigrants – with over five million arriving in the 1880s alone. And since it contained America’s preferred port of immigration, Ellis Island, New York City became the epicentre of this demographic change as its population increased by over 25% in just over a decade. Even though slum dwellers made up a large portion of the population in cities like New York, they went almost unnoticed by members of the American middle and upper classes as cities who rarely ventured into their cities’ poor neighbourhoods. The conditions in which slum dwellers lived were crowded, unsanitary, dangerous, and often without access to basic amenities like electricity or clean water. Evidence of people living in this type of squalor could be found in nearly every major city, yet it was almost never mentioned in the media except to shed light on recent crimes. Its presence in popular culture was no different where the only attention paid to the urban poor could be seen in the more romantic novels of James Joyce and Charles Dickens. While there were some poverty relief programs in American cities at the time, they mostly operated on a local level and provided short-term solutions instead of drawing attention to larger systemic problems. With many of those in a position to help largely unaware of the conditions in slums and those living in them too disenfranchised to help themselves, American slums remained paradoxically both invisible and omnipresent.

Decades, these American slums continued to fester with little outside attention or intervention. But in 1890, a pioneering photojournalist and ‘muckraker’ named Jacob Riis published an in depth look at New York’s slums titled How the Other Half Lives. Riis’ book became popular almost immediately and received high praise from The New York Times and soon to be president Theodore Roosevelt. More important than praise, however, was the urban reform it helped inspire, including the formation of the Tenement House Committee in 1894 which provided a governmental body to represent slum dwellers and the New York Tenement House Acts of 1895 and 1901 which officially defined slums and outlawed rear tenement housing and put regulations on ventilation, light, fire safety, and general space for living areas.

See the source image
Inside a New York City Tenement – How the Other Half Lives (1890)

Today, urban poverty continues to exist in many of these same cities of the Northern Hemisphere like New York. These neighbourhoods, however, hardly resemble the slums of the nineteenth century. But slums are here to stay, and over the past seventy years slum-life has grown exponentially across the cities of the developing world and is estimated to contribute to around 95% of global population growth this decade. Not only are today’s slums growing at a rate unprecedented in any population in human history, but they are also a widespread and global phenomenon with over 15,000 unique slums existing in more than 600 cities across the Earth. Much like the American slums of the nineteenth century, many modern slums have been pushed to the least desirable and more isolated parts of cities, allowing them to be segregated from and easily forgotten by the cities’ ruling classes. And, much like the slums of the nineteenth century, today’s slums are almost without representation in media and popular culture. When we do choose to represent them visually, they are often seen in world news at grand, birds-eye views which not only make the slums difficult to distinguish, but also remove any agency from their inhabitants by effectively shrinking them to the size of ants. When there are ‘close-up’ depictions of slum dwellers which may attempt to give agency to their subjects, they are rely on the romantic traditions of Dickens and Joyce instead of the realist and voyeuristic ones of Riis.

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Dharavi, Mumbai India
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Caracas, Venezuela

Slum dwellers today are once again caught between living both everywhere and nowhere. We are partially aware of their existence, but only to the extent that it entertains us and almost never in its true scale or dereliction. Most importantly, it seems that little effort has been taken to fight modern global urban poverty. By undertaking a diachronic comparison of late nineteenth century and present day slums, this project aims to assess the successes and failures of these representations in attracting larger awareness and intervention.

COVID-19 as the Book of Revelations: Thoughts on the transnational reception of coronavirus

Coronavirus has shocked the increasingly interconnected global community to its core, perhaps even more so than the ebola epidemic five, the swine flu epidemic ten, or the bird flu epidemic fifteen years ago. While I consider a cynical approach to the postmodern history of pandemics not very helpful in itself, I must also admit that it does strike one as a bit ‘odd’ that global hysteria around diseases keeps resurfacing with such clockwork-like periodicity. Why could this be the case? Do epidemics have a genuine periodicity to them, or is it the socio-economic, and socio-psychological garnish that makes them appear so? Could perhaps this ‘garnish’ be more important than the supposed epidemic itself, and has more influence on the narrative we establish than numbers in lethality, contagion, etc. in any of the respective cases? These issues are the core of what I will be trying to tackle in this post.

Rousseau argues that in humanity’s natural, primordial state the individual is fundamentally good, and it is enclosure – the early capitalist practice of land division among yeomen, but in this case referring more broadly to the emergence of societies and their inherent corruption – that makes them evil. Marx diverges from this notion into a materialistic direction, however, he also alludes to the idea that the above-mentioned corruption manifests in inequality, the alienation of labour, and other socio-economic phenomena, all of which can be examined under the umbrella-term ‘class struggle’. However, in Marxist terms the current ruling class will also always implement reactionary measures to crack down on accumulated social frustrations, which often find their way into statecraft, as well as the social psyche of a given people.

On the one hand, Marx claims that under the feudal mode of production this ‘opium’ to tranquillise and keep the masses in check with was religion. On the other hand, however, if one takes a closer look at the teachings of Christ, Paul, or any of the saints, it seems rather apparent that ‘holding the other cheek’, and ‘loving thy neighbour’ are not only a fruitful basis for building civilisations, but in fact also very much in line with socialist principles, more projectable onto extracts such as ‘it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of G-d’. What is it then that makes the Bible and its respective institutions reactionary tools in the eyes of Marx?

The present post would argue, that it is indeed the chronological facet of Christianity that led Marx to his conclusions. Eschatology is the mindset that expects the end of times. It is present in many ancient texts that the world periodically gets dismantled and then put back together, reforming into an organic continuity. However, Armageddon – the expectation of the end of times as a great final event of judgement is a very characteristically Judeo-Christian notion. According to the Book of John (or Book of Revelations, as the modern English translations puts it), four horsemen will deliver the Apocalypse, amidst serenades of trumpeting angels and the famed second coming of Christ. This image burnt into the European social psyche so deeply, that we don’t even have adjectives to describe it, other than ‘apocalyptic’, which itself originates from the very text in question. John draws analogies with the ancient Battle of Megiddo between Egypt and Babylon, suggesting that the last war, the war between the Kingdoms of Heaven and the armies of evil will also take place near Megiddo, from which the term ‘Armageddon’ is derived.

The reason the Book of Revelations is so central to understanding our relationship to time as intellectuals groomed in the western hemisphere is that it establishes time as a linear phenomenon, as opposed to the cyclical worldview of ancient contemporary cultures around the world, most notably China. ‘Linear’ in our context refers to the chronological perception of existence within G-d’s material creation. Time and the material world had a beginning, when G-d created the cosmos, and it will have an end with Armageddon. Naturally, this highly sophisticated ontological thinking rarely filtered down to the wider social subconscious under feudalism, but the promise of the world ending some day, and the gargoyles, demons, and imps carved into their places of worship kept the population perfectly in check. This linear view of time proved so effective in sweeping social frustrations under the rug, that Christendom and its mode of production, feudalism prevailed up until the 20th century in some European peripheries. There was unrest in the Middle Ages per se, such as peasant revolts, heresy, and the corresponding brutal suppression of these, but it took the inventions of the printing press, the scientific method, and centuries of philosophy to question the Book of Revelations. Enter the Enlightenment.

Nowadays we can rationally explain through empiricism and observation that even if the cosmos will cease to exist one day, it is most probably an unfathomably distant prospect, and even if there will be an end of times, it will not be biblical, epic, or climactic, but rather cold, indifferent, and uncertain. Modernity gave us tools to accumulate rational knowledge, and to better our material lives significantly. But it also ripped us of the certainty that beyond our physical existence eternal life awaits us, be it for the better (Heaven) or the worse (Hell). What Marx misunderstood about religion is that it’s not simply an ‘opium’ to give people rest while they serve their overlords. Religion in the West was all of this, but also, most fundamentally it gave the medieval common man meaning in the face of an otherwise indifferent cosmos. The sophisticated ontology changed during the Enlightenment. G-d was no longer a benevolent father figure, but an indecipherable and indifferent universe. However, the social subconscious is lagging behind to this day.

Dei gratia referred to the notion that anointed by the Pope, medieval rulers were essentially installed by G-d, and out of his grace to be more precise. We no longer hold this notion to be sacred, nor did everybody at the time. But the things we do hold sacred, such as individual freedom, or the sovereignty of the self over that of the ruler – these are all ideas we derived from the same abstract deity. Just think of the American War of Independence. Arguably the greatest experiment ever undertaken in history. The people asked themselves the question: “Can we govern ourselves instead of a king?” The answer (so far) is a resounding ‘yes’. But the success of republics over monarchies in itself does not mean that the legitimacy of one system is not based on the exact same notions as that of its predecessor. King George III answered only to G-d, and was granted sovereignty by G-d. The modern individual’s freedom is also bestowed upon him by G-d. ‘In G-d, we trust.’

What is all this? What does a reductionist summary of hundreds of pages of Marx and the Enlightenment have to do with coronavirus? The main point of this post is that while we progress and develop, some things remain constant. In our postmodern space, sensationalism and mass hysteria are no longer the exception. They are the rule. Quite literally, and in both senses of the word. We could rationally overcome the G-d problem. But we could not change that it is enshrined in us, and that we still harbour the magical thinking that the overwhelming meaninglessness has a face. And given that the Christian G-d created a linear chronology, we cannot fully get rid of Armageddon either, at least not on a subconscious level. In other words, the world has to end.

We keep inventing more and more creative and scientific ways to explain how the world is going to end. We figured out viruses – the fact that they exist, as well as how they behave. This does not mean however, that the average person understands how viruses work any more than he did during the Black Plague. The average man must still rely on G-d for those answers. of course, nowhere in this text do I aim to even suggest that there is a single person alive today, who is religious in the same way most people were in the Middle Ages. There might be, but that kind of faith is lost for good in the West. But on a subconscious level we are yet to surpass this kind of thinking. And as long as the people believe that the world is going to end ‘eventually’, in the eyes of the people in power the world will have to end ‘right now’. In the postmodern space we live in a perpetual superposition between life and death. We are never really alive, as we lead not our personal lives, but that of our consumer baskets. And we are never really dead either, as the comfort and cushion of our consumer basket keeps us alive more than sufficiently. We simply exist. And for as long as we do, the world will have to end. After all, nobody will riot in the streets as long as there is imminent danger of the world coming to an end.

Human Trafficking is Everywhere: Analyzing The Crime and Why the Inherent Networks Matter for Organized Crime Transnationally

Despite the combative efforts of world superpowers, why do the different transnational networks of organized crime elements seemingly flourish around the globe? I propose that the crime of human trafficking, as it boasts complex linkages to transnational organized crime elements on a global stage, can serve as an excellent subject for analysis to potentially elucidate the aforementioned topic. The American Department of Homeland Security states that human trafficking “…involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.[1]” Human trafficking, while being an affront to established human rights, has today become a multibillion-dollar industry spanning various networks beyond geopolitically specified borders.[2] As such, an examination of human trafficking as an ultimately economically driven crime effected by the various social and political factors of the countries it occurs lends itself to a comparative juxtaposition that, supplementary, can round out the preliminary examination of the overarching topic.

According to the US Dept. of State’s ‘Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2019’ Russia, China, Iran, Belarus, and Venezuela see more human trafficking activity than other countries.[3] As these countries differ cultural and geographical, for the most part, ample data should be accessible for a comparative analysis of effective transnational criminal networks. Furthermore, hypothesize that evaluation of the human trafficking activates that occur in countries whose governments are categorized as Tier 3 in the Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2019 – as they do not fully meet the minimum standards set by the American Government’s Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) and are not making significant efforts to do so – alongside contemplation of the historical activity of associated criminal elements will reveal why human trafficking, as an exemplar of a transnational criminal network, flourishes contemporarily.[4] Supported by the comparative analysis of the documented causes of human trafficking in the Tier 3 countries, my argument is a complex and underreported series of transnational linkages inherent in both the internal and external social, political, and economic factors of the tier 3 countries allow for transnational organized crime networks to spread and operate relatively unobstructed.

The sources I hope will yield support this argument are data-driven overviews of human trafficking activities in tier 3 countries as written in the Transnational Organized Crime Journals, alongside writing such as Sally Cameron and Edward Newman’s Trafficking in Human$. The originality of the argument is that it combines a historical overview of the oft-underreported activities of transnational criminal elements in conjunction with analysis of aforementioned transnational criminal networks; in an attempt to contribute to the discussion on global criminology, a deeper understanding of why these networks flourish around the globe. Less of an alternative or a counterargument, but a more broadly accepted substitution for the methodological approach I proposed would be a more micro-historiographical approach, wherein the criminal networks associated with human trafficking would be analyzed within national contexts – stopping just short of exploring the transnational aspects of the networks. On the other hand, a potential issue facing analytical pursuit relating to Transnational Organized Crime comes from how complex the topic has become overtime with an ever-evolving slew of accompanying legislature.[5]


[1] Department of Homeland Security, ‘What Is Human Trafficking?’, US Gov., <https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/what-human-trafficking> [accessed 4 March 2020].

[2]Patrick Belser ‘Forced Labour and Human Trafficking: Estimating the Profits’ SSRN Electronic Journal (March 2005), <https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1016&context=forcedlabor> [accessed 6 March 2020]

[3] Department of State, ‘Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2019’, US Gov., June 2019, <https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/2019-Trafficking-in-Persons-Report.pdf> [accessed 6 March 2020]

[4] Department of State, ‘Trafficking in Persons Report’, <https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/2019-Trafficking-in-Persons-Report.pdf> [accessed 6 March 2020].

[5] Valsamis Mitsilegas “From National to Global, Empirical to Legal: The Ambivalent Concept of Transnational Organized Crime” in Critical Reflections on Transnational Organized Crime, Money Laundering, and Corruption, Margaret E. Beare (ed.), (Toronto, 2003), p. 55.

Pepsi or Vodka?: An analysis of transnational transactions and the creation of a ‘global consumerism’

There’s an age-old saying, ’Pepsi Or Coke’, the perfect paradox for many today of my generation who view most soft drinks best served as a ‘mixer’ with their preferred poison. If you were a citizen of the Soviet Union, however, Pepsi would have almost certainly been you preferred beverage. Coca Cola managed to wriggle into the soft drinks market of the USSR thanks to prying an opportunity from the Summer 1980 Olympic Games. The USA had chosen to boycott these Games because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but by 1986, ‘Pepsi or Coke’ had become just as – if not more so – synonymous with the Soviet Union as it was with the capitalist United States of America.

In 1959, at the American National Exhibition (ANEM), then Vice-President Richard Nixon and Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev exchanged arguments for why their respected cultures were superior to the others’. A most remarkable moment occurred when Pepsi executive Donald McIntosh Kendall offered Khrushchev a drink of Pespi.[1] Subsequently, an agreement between Pepsi-Co and the Soviet Beverage Industry for a ten-year contract where Pepsi-Cola would sell Pepsi concentrate in the U.S.S.R, with contracting a German subsidiary supplier and retention of quality control. The exchange would be Soviet Stolichnaya and Sovertksaya vodkas being marketed in America and the West.[2] The combination of events at ANEM emphasized two fundamental issues: The USSR was not totally ‘cut-off’ from the West, even at its zenith; and that ‘consumerism’ could form a transnational connection that dwarfed the extant ideological boundaries. I am weary about how I use ‘consumerism’ as a noun, it is important not to construe the Soviet Union to be a consumer society as the American model promotes[3], ignoring a fundamental of the bipolar contest. There are several key methodological considerations: the role of transnational ‘actors’ such as corporations and politicians in building boundaries; and the ways in which ‘transactions’ weave transnational networks. Akira Iriye’s editorial monograph, Global Interdependence: The World after 1945, is one of the foundational texts I wish to use to expand my theoretical considerations, particularly in an analysis of ‘cultural homogenization’ versus ‘cultural heterogenization’.

I will analyse the ‘transnational’ connections through the transactions that occurred between the USSR and USA between 1959 and 1986, exploring the commodities that have become synonymous with modern-day capitalist mass-consumption. I will argue that these transactions succeeded where intellectual and institutional theories of history – including but not limited to Modernization Theory – ultimately failed in dismantling Communism. My outlying hypothesis shall focus on dismantling the arbitrary Cold-War ideological dichotomy, instead arguing that ‘consumerism’ was the key to building truly transnational networks through ‘transactions’. This shall offer a chance to look at both the invisible and visible boundaries that existed between the USSR and USA. Modernization Theory pitted ‘modern’ against ‘traditional’ societies, its deconstruction by the mid-1970s heralded the rise of a new modern totality, a ‘global consumerism’. I will build my analysis through primary-source memoirs – including Khrushchev on Khrushchev – and a Micro-Spatial approach, following the three ways of evaluating artefacts within a global narrative of global history from De Vito and Gerritsen: cultural connections; internal synthetic global nuances and continuities; and objects as global images. I fully believe in their assertion that these approaches have potential to ‘bring together material and symbolic connections, and circulations at various spatial scopes.’[4] I hope to argue that the same is true for the consumer culture that developed between the USA and USSR from 1959 to 1986, building a global consumerism and a successful proponent of modernity where historical theory had thus far failed.

Word Count: 692


[1] Kirkpatrick, Tim, ‘How Pepsi briefly became the 6th largest military in the world’, Business Insider, (July 26, 2018), Accessed: 25/02/20

[2] Keeffe, Arthur-John, ‘Of Soft Drinks and Human Rights’, American Bar Association Journal, vol60:1 (January, 1974), pp111-113, p112

[3] Reid, Susan E., ‘Cold War in the Kitchen: Gender and the De-Stalinization of Consumer Taste in the Soviet Union under Khrushchev’, Slavic Review, vol61:2 (Summer, 2002) , p215

[4] De Vito, Christian G., Gerritsen, Anne, ‘Micro-Spatial Histories of Labour: Towards a New Global History’, in Christian G. De Vito and Anne Gerritsen (eds) Micro-Spatial Histories of Global Labour (Cham, 2018), p10

“We Shall Overcome”?: Transnational Civil Rights Activism in Northern Ireland and the United States of America, 1967-72

Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh, a prominent member of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), once suggested he and his fellow civil rights activists ‘viewed ourselves as Ulster’s white negroes’.[1] Indeed, the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, spearheaded by groups such as NICRA and People’s Democracy (PD), established such a connection between the discrimination against African-Americans in the United States and their own experiences of inequality on the grounds of their Catholicism. The success of African-Americans in securing desegregation in the early 1960s thus encouraged these groups in Northern Ireland to pursue similar courses of action in the hope of achieving the same results.[2] Between April 1967, with the foundation of NICRA, and January 1972, the recognised end date of the movement in Northern Ireland with Bloody Sunday, civil rights groups in Northern Ireland assimilated the objectives and approaches of its American counterparts into their own tactics to achieve integration. The transmission of these ideas from America was facilitated by two transnational ‘connectors’ in particular: individual actors travelling between the two locations and the media in their transmission of images and words through newspapers, radio and television. 

Much of the existing historical scholarship in this field, including perhaps the most influential work of Brian Dooley’s Black and Green: The Fight for Civil Rights in Northern Ireland and Black America (London, 1998), focuses largely on establishing these connections between the Northern Irish and American movements. While these sources provide invaluable evidence for the transnational movement of ideas, they do little to evaluate the consequences of their influence. Therefore, the key question of this project is: in light of the differences between the results of the civil rights movements in the United States and Northern Ireland, with the former eventually securing political legislation against institutional segregation and the latter collapsing into a violent campaign defined by paramilitarism, did the influence of the American movement help or hinder the Northern Irish movement? In other words, is there a role for local cultural circumstances in the ‘translation’ of these transnational concepts that resulted in their different effect in Northern Ireland?

To answer this question, undertaking an analysis of the transnational movement of concepts such as ‘civil rights’, ‘non-violence’ and ‘black power’ through the activity of the aforementioned actors and media institutions, and the reasons for the dichotomy in the concepts’ reception and application between the two locations will be necessary. Both contemporary and retrospective accounts from key figures in the Northern Irish movement, including Bernadette Devlin and Michael Farrell, emphasise the importance of such conceptual influences, but also suggest limited understandings of the nature of these concepts.[3] Therefore, it should be considered whether there was ever a real understanding of, commitment to, or possibility of practising these ideas in the movement in Northern Ireland, given the local circumstances. One such example is in the Northern Irish application of both ‘non-violence’ from Martin Luther King and aspects of ‘black power’ from Stokely Carmichael, two concepts with fundamentals that were somewhat antithetical in the American context.[4]

Therefore, at this juncture, I would suggest that while the US movement rightfully inspired those in Northern Ireland to challenge the institutional discrimination against them, the attempt to apply these ideas on the basis of their success in the US without real consideration of the local circumstances in Northern Ireland ultimately rendered them an obstruction to the Northern Irish cause. However, the misunderstanding and misapplication of the ideas of the American movement does not bear sole responsibility for the failure of the civil rights movement; it is a contributory factor to a wider explanation, constructed of issues from both within the movement and the social and political circumstances of the region at the time, yet significant enough that it merits such an individual study. 

[1] Ó Dochartaigh, Fionnbarra, Ulster’s White Negroes: From Civil Rights to Insurrection (London, 1994), p. 14

[2] Guelke, Adrian, Politics in Deeply Divided Societies (Cambridge, 2012), p. 85

[3] See Bernadette Devlin, The Price of My Soul (New York, 1969); Michael Farrell (ed.), Twenty Years On (Dingle, 1988)

[4] Prince, Simon, ‘’Do What the Afro-Americans Are Doing’: Black Power and the Start of the Northern Ireland Troubles’, Journal of Contemporary History 50(3) (2015), p. 524

Transnational movements between feminists in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, 1900-1935.

In 1922, over 2000 women from 23 countries arrived in Baltimore for the Pan-American Conference of Women. The conference, organised by the delegates from the United States, aimed at creating a Transnational Women’s movement across the Americas in order to combat European Influence in the region. Nonetheless, the conference failed at incorporating the needs of women in the North and South, by being heavily centred on the aims of North America and providing an overwhelmingly imperialistic tone towards the Latin American Women. Shortly after the conference, delegates such as Paulina Luisa from Uruguay and Elena Arizmedi from Mexico discussed the creation of an Ibero-American alliance, which brought together the women from the Iberian Peninsula and latin America who shared a common culture and religion inherited from the colonial relations between Iberia and Latin America. The League of Iberian and Hispanic-American women was then formed in 1923, with sections in Madrid and most Latin American capitals. 

Despite the creation of this League arising from a desire on behalf of Latin American women to form a movement which better suited their aims – therefore implying some kind of shared cultural experience of womanhood – historiography regarding first wave feminist transnationalism has failed to explore both the Alliance itself and the aims of Latin American and Iberian Feminists. Studies on movements in which Ibero-American women were a part of, such as the Pan-American Conference have an overwhelmingly Eurocentric focus and relate solely to the needs of North American and European Women. There has been a surge however, by historians such as Pamela Caughie and Francesca Miller to combat the Eurocentrism in the literature by creating links between first wave feminist movements in Britain and its Colonies, demonstrating the relevance of colonial interactions in early feminist movements. This is especially the case for Latin America, who’s liberation movements in the early 19th century must have undoubtedly impacted the first wave feminists which emerged merely decades later. 

There is therefore a gap in the historiography of the field, which this project aims not only to fill but to spark further research on the transnational gender relations between Latin America and Iberia. This project strives to explore the questions as to why the League was formed and argues that the aims of Iberian and Latin American women relate due to cultural interactions as a result of colonialism. The research questions are built upon the idea of a common, cultural experience of womanhood between Ibero-America which then shapes the aims of transnational first wave feminist movements these women participated in:

  • Why is there is desire from women on both sides of the Atlantic to form this Ibero-American relationship? 
  • Is there a common experience of womanhood, shaped by ‘Machismo’ as well as the Catholic Religion in Latin America as a result of Spanish and Portuguese colonisation?
  • To what extent is this relationship the drive for first wave feminists in Ibero-America to unite?
  • What were the precise aims of the Ibero-American first wave feminists?

The focus of this project is therefore the transnational exchange of cultural gender norms as well as the translational interaction of first wave feminism.The project will look firstly texts which speak of feminist and gender history and philosophy in Iberia and Latin America, in order to search for a common cultural experience of womanhood. It will then move onto analysing the Ibero-American Alliance itself, through an exploration of letters, periodicals (La Raza, El Imparcial, La Epoca), speeches and legal documents which a precise focus on the aims of the alliance.

Due to the lack of historiography on the League itself, it will rely heavily on the personal correspondence and publications by the members of the League, specifically: Carmen de Burgos (Spain), Belén Sarraga (Spain & Portugal), Paulina Luisi (Uruguay), Elena Arizmedi (Mexico) and Bertha Lutz (Brasil). The timeline relevant to the project is that of 1900-1935, as first wave feminism arose later in Latin America and Iberia, and feminist movements were haltered due to the Spanish Civil War starting in 1936 and the rise of Franco’s right-winged authoritarian government. 

The intellectual history of Maoism

My project is an examination into the transnational elements of Maoism as an intellectual movement. Firstly, I will explore how Marxism transitioned into Marxism Leninism as it spread from Western to Eastern Europe. Then how Marxism Leninism transitioned into Maoism in China. How did this ideology cross borders? What parts of it changed, and what stayed the same? How much influence did important figures like Lenin, Stalin and Mao have on the ideology’s changes, and how much was a response to the different conditions in their countries? How does the ideology develop in times of peace and of war? This will be followed by an examination of Maoism outside of China and following the death of Mao. Particular attention will be paid to its influence in American and India, but Turkey, Peru, and the Philippines will also be covered. The ultimate question of this project is can we track a consistent intellectual history of Maoism, and if not, what are the reasons for this rupture.

So why is this project interesting and worth pursuing. Firstly, I would argue that it has significant modern relevance. While there is a tendency in the west to view Maoism as a dead letter, this is simply not the case. There are only two leftist ideologies currently engaged in armed conflict in the world, Democratic Confederalism and Maoism. And the Confederalists of Rojava are supported in their struggle by Turkish Maoists groups. Also, the main thrust of the article being the way in which ideologies mutate across borders and in different cultures has relevancy outside the left. The far right is increasingly globalised, from the neo-fascist groups like Atomwaffen and The Base taking inspiration from Islamists, to the increasing fraternisation between Republican diehards and Hindutva ideologues. What I will uncover in this project will, hopefully, be applicable here as well. But even if the project was totally irrelevant to our current condition, it would not be without value. The story of global Maoism is one that stretches from the 19th century to the present day. Its geographic scope stretches from Paris to China to America. It takes in men and women at every station of life, from the ruler of the most populous nation on earth to toiling peasant-farmer guerrillas. The way that Maoists tend to form small, insular communities also provides fascinating opportunities for a micro historical look at what could otherwise be a very macro subject. Particularly interesting is the American Maoist community, as fractious and fragmented as it can be. What shape does an ideology rooted in peasant guerrilla warfare and founded in a colonial context take, when it is recapitulated within the imperial core?

There are also some interesting sources that will be included in this project. I intend to tell this story largely using the words of the figures discussed. In other words, using the writing so of prominent Marxist figures. This will obviously include using the works of major figures like Lenin, Stalin, Mao but also those colleagues of there’s who are less well known to laymen. Seamus Costello, Ibrahim Kaypakkaya, and Azad will all have their voices heard and they will not be alone. Modern Maoist theorists in North America like Kevin Rashid Johnson, J Moufawad-Paul, and Jason Unruhe will be considered, both their writings and if possible, interviews with them. Fortunately, unlike Trotskyites Maoists seem to do most of their writing online rather than in newspapers, so it is easier to keep track of their statements. We should not only consider the words of intellectuals, however. We are lucky that Indian universities have good English language records of interviews conducted with Naxalite fighters, allowing us a glimpse at their conceptualisation of Maoism, one apart from the intellectuals in the leadership of their organisation and in the west. Finally, it would be hubristic to act as if I could write an entirely unique history of Maoism as an intellectual movement from primary sources. While most works on Maoism are almost solely concerned with it as a physical force, some secondary sources will still be used.