In this post, since we have had the last of our normal classes, I thought I would reflect on the ways in which my project has changed since I made my proposal. We were certainly warned that this would be the case yet it has still be a little surprising to deal with.
I think the biggest thing that has changed is the scope of the project. It took a long time for me to decide on a topic for this project as I came up with, then rejected idea after idea. One of the problems I was having was thinking that the other ideas I had were too narrow and would not yield enough information. That is why, when I finally settled on the project I have, my approach to it was so broad. I initially intended to focus on a large number of African national liberation leaders from all over the continent in order to chart their migration process and how they were influenced by the places they went. By the time of my proposal I had realised that this may be ambitious as though there are a number of people who followed a very similar migration trajectory, they also had their own individual contexts that could not be ignored. Therefore, I decided to focus on two figures, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya. I chose these figures as I felt the differences in their backgrounds made their similar migrant trajectories more interesting. They were both from British colonies yet on opposite sides of Africa and with different administration systems. Also they did not personally know each other beyond a brief meeting in 1945, though they were involved with similar organisations. Thus, I went from a broad examination of numerous figures (with no real idea of how to attempt this examination) to the comparison of just two, with a view to finding out how these separate transnational experiences led both to being figureheads of independence. I still worry that perhaps my choosing of these two figures was too arbitrary yet I think the comparison can yield an interesting argument if I can do it right.
Also in my proposal, I promised that my work would illustrate a network of African intellectual elites across the world who shaped the ideas behind national liberation. This meant that as well as looking at Nkrumah and Kenyatta, I would also focus on people who were not eventual African leaders. This was somewhat naive, and also based on a misunderstanding of the way in which this network functioned. While there are many very prominent individuals associated with the two, such as George Padmore, C.L.R. James, Ladipo Solanke etc, yet these associations were formed through many political organisations. These organisations operated on many levels. Some were just for students, some were national, some were international. In addition, over the course of Nkrumah and Kenyatta’s involvement with these organisations, many of them changed as they split up and merged with others. Encountering organisation after organisation was overwhelming and keeping track of all of them was very difficult. Thus, it was necessary to narrow my scope and focus on what the point of exploring these connections is. In other words, how did their migration experience shape the way in which they negotiated independence from the British? How did it affect the position they were in at the transition from colonial rule?