The reading this week has focused on actors and networks. This is particularly interesting for my project as my starting point was the role of African independence leaders as transnational actors and the network of political figures that they were a part of.
One of the texts I found particularly interesting was Ulrike Lindner’s Transnational movements between colonial empires: migrant workers from the British Cape Colony in the German diamond town of Lüderitzbucht. Lindner uses the town of Luderitzbucht as an example of a transnational space as its diamond boom prompted an increase in migration, particularly from the neighbouring British Cape Colony. She argues that examining the transnational movements in this town provides insight into new perspectives on colonial environments and structures, and the lives of marginalised migrant workers. It is perhaps easy to criticize Lindner’s rationale in using the town as an example as any exemplary study comes with the difficulty of justifying how far its conclusions can be applied beyond its specific context. However, the text does bring up some interesting questions, particularly regarding national borders and where they lie. The demarcation of a national border seems simple, yet the text engages with territories that are far removed, geographically, from their colonial motherland. Thus, it is appropriate to ask whether colonies can still be considered part of a nation, making exchanges between the colonies transnational, as opposed to transcolonial. To some extent, the distinction between the two does not seem so important. It could be argued that exchanges between two colonies occur in the same way regardless of whether these exchanges are labelled one way or another. However, the two labels clearly offer different perspectives, though there is indeed overlap between the two. Seeing exchanges between colonies as purely transcolonial perhaps downplays, to some extent, the national context that shaped the administration and the values of specific colonies. As Lindner shows, the German context was particularly important in the way in which Luderitzbucht was run as the values of the administration were not limited to that colony in particularly. Similar policies regarding race and citizenship could be found in Europe. Lindner therefore is justified in her use of the term transnational as it seems to offer a scope for analysing colonial entanglements that is more thorough and all-encompassing. She emphasises the definitions that we have seen in previous weeks which focus on the connections forged by people who transcend borders.
Another, more practical, aspect of the text that I found particularly useful is in the way that it uses contextual information. One of the things that has frustrated me in some of the readings for previous weeks is that it has been difficult to see the transnational ‘value’ of some texts as the sheer specificity of the context provided has overshadowed the point. This, I think, has contributed to my lingering confusion over how to go about practicing transnational history. In contrast to this, I found the Lindner’s text particularly effective at conveying how the situation in Luderitzbucht was transnational as the British context and the German context remained balanced in such a way that the effect each had on the transnational actors in Luderitzbucht was clear throughout.