Jost Dülffer, Marc Frey. Elites and Decolonization in the Twentieth Century. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 296 S. ISBN 978-0-230-24369-9.
Reviewed by Angela Glodschei
Published on H-Soz-u-Kult (June, 2013)
J. Dülffer u.a. (Hrsg.): Elites and Decolonization in the Twentieth C
In recent years the history of decolonization, profiting from the influences of postcolonial studies and global history approaches, developed into a flourishing field where decolonization is not understood as simply a transfer of power but as a social, cultural and political process with many sides and aspects. Jost Dülffer and Marc Frey approach the decolonization process from the perspective of elites and more specifically the elites of the Third World, thereby mapping the “complex interplay between the local, the metropolitan, and the international” in order to understand the “fundamental changes which decolonization brought about”. (p. 10) To them the central theme for understanding the transition from the colonial to the postcolonial in this process is agency (p. 2); thus the editors concentrate on actors, and more specifically, on elites, leaders and social groups who were involved in decolonization processes. Very general they conceptualize elites as “social groups who command certain resources in a given social entity. (p. 2) Furthermore, they suggest a classification of different elite groups: namely indigenous elites, co-opted traditional elites, national modernizers, ethnic nationalists, traditional elite or various groups of the nobility, economic elites and foreign functional elites.
At this point it would have made sense to relate the individual essays – all in all twelve – to one of these concepts in order to underline the proposed classification. Instead it remains to the reader to find his way through the wide variety of elites and regions covered in the individual articles: ranging from intelligence providers and their role in the late colonial state (Martin Thomas) over Dutch political, business and functional elites during and following the decolonization of Indonesia (Marc Frey), economic elites of Chinese and Indonesian business elites (Thomas Lindblad), indigenous African elites in terms of chieftaincies and chiefs in northern Namibia (Michal Bollig) or African political elites in Verwoerdian South Africa (Christoph Marx), the role of individuals like Jawaharlal Nehru (Judith M. Brown), Sékou Touré (Mairi S. MacDonald) and Julius Nyere (Andreas Eckert) to American and Soviet efforts to educate and influence Third World elites in newly decolonized countries (Corinna Unger and Andreas Hilger respectively). Esther Möller’s contribution about is the only contribution which takes the reader to the Middle East and concentrates on French schools in educating Lebanese elites in the French colonial and postcolonial project. On the basis of elites in South East Asia and their notion of nation (Paul Kratoska) and the political imagination of elites in French West Africa (Frederick Cooper), both contributors look into the question of different ideas of “nation” in the postcolonial setting.
All of the contributions are based on extensive archival research which makes this volume especially valuable. Exemplary is the essay by Christoph Marx on Verwoerdian Apartheid and African Political Elites in South Africa from 1950 to 1958 where he analyses the activities of the Broederbond organization in supporting and manipulating the emergence of an African political elite as well as African politicians who actively used the Verwoerdian framework of Apartheid, especially the homeland policy, to further their own political careers. Marx speaks of a Verwoerdian framework since Hendrik Verwoerd was one of the main protagonists in creating the apartheid state, see p.139. Drawing on original Broederbond documents of the Archives of the Broederbond in Pretoria, Marx shows vividly how the colonial and the traditional chiefs in Apartheid South Africa were intertwined, maneuvering between diverging incentives, power struggles and the Cold War. In the end Marx stated that “the picture is on the whole rather contradictory and does not fit easily into the history of decolonization.” (p. 152)
As a second example may serve Corinna Unger’s contribution about US foreign aid in the shape of philanthropic foundations, such as the Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation in regard to establishing higher educations programs for African elites. The transfer of knowledge became an integral part of the international power struggle in the second half of the twentieth century. (p. 254) By establishing colleges, universities, research institutes and enabling student mobility to the West, the US tried to win over the new nations. (p. 245) On the basis of original documents from the Archives of the Carnegie Corporation, Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation Unger illustrates clearly how the struggle over the new nations continued after their independence.
The overall variety of all articles demonstrates that the role of elites is a complex and wide-ranging aspect of decolonization. As both editors state in their introduction: “Conceptions of the nation, of identity, and of political leadership, and the economic and social transformations of decolonization cannot be understood without an analysis of those leaders and social groups who were instrumental in shaping the multifaceted process from the colonial to the postcolonial. (p. 10) A final summary and a more profound introduction in which the individual examples were united analytically and substantiated theoretically would have been a huge asset not only to this volume but to the history of decolonization in general. For this reason, the volume, unfortunately, does not transcend a mere conglomeration of – indeed very well researched and substantiated – essays.
Nonetheless, the thoroughly compiled essays, all of them revised presentations from a conference held at the University of Cologne in October 2008 For a summary of the conference proceedings see Sönke Kunkel. Review of, Trajectories of Decolonization: Elites and the Transformation from the Colonial to the Postcolonial. H-Soz-u-Kult, H-Net Reviews. December, 2008
http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=27288 , make up a great contribution to recent trends in the historiography of decolonization which look beyond the metropolitan-periphery relationship to create a more nuanced understanding of the complex nature of postwar developments in international relations and domestic politics worldwide. The variety of approaches and perspectives in this volume offer an idea about the multilayered process of decolonization. Likewise, it serves as an excellent example that in the history of decolonization there are still many fields open for future in-depth studies.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/.
Angela Glodschei. Review of Dülffer, Jost; Frey, Marc, Elites and Decolonization in the Twentieth Century.
H-Soz-u-Kult, H-Net Reviews.
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