Conference: Africa, Eastern Europe and the Dream of International Socialism: New Perspectives on the Global Cold War, 28-29 October 2016

‘Africa, Eastern Europe and the Dream of International Socialism: New Perspectives on the Global Cold War’

Venue: European Studies Centre, St Antony’s College, Oxford University
Date: 28-29 October 2016 

Recent years have witnessed renewed interest in international and transnational history across the discipline, as the “global turn” in contemporary history writing has recast the field of international relations from a variety of fresh perspectives. Yet there are still key areas of inquiry that remain remarkably under-explored. New transnational histories of the Cold War, for example, have concentrated on the relationship between the so-called First and Third Worlds, or focused on countries in the ‘Global South’. Such Cold War histories have addressed primarily geo-political concerns. Scant consideration has been given to the historical traffic, cultural transfer and personal exchanges between the ‘Second’ and ‘Third World’, and in particular between Eastern Europe and Africa. This is unfortunate, given that international socialism took on new meanings in the context of such Cold War contacts, and Eastern Europe and Africa engaged in a great deal of exchange in the decades after World War II, in a wide range of economic, political, cultural and military relations. These exchanges occurred not only between those of a socialist orientation, but also between groups of distinct ideological hues – potentially shedding new light on the complex interplay between the globalising forces of the late Cold War. This conference is designed to address this forgotten interface of international exchange and knowledge-production during the Cold War. 

The conference aims not only to explore the post-colonial encounter between socialist Eastern Europe and socialist Africa, but also to investigate how this exchange between the Soviet Union/Eastern Europe and Africa contributes to the story of the rise and fall of socialist globalization. Select themes for the conference include: 

  • Education, Science and Technology
  • Trade and Development
  • Labour and Migration
  • Race and Culture
  • War and Military Assistance 

The two-day conference is envisaged as a unique opportunity for Eastern Europeanists and Africanists to come together to share their research and ideas, and to think about this rich yet long-overlooked aspect of Cold War history from a broader inter-regional perspective.

Organisers: Paul Betts (paul.betts@history.ox.ac.uk) and Miles Larmer (miles.larmer@history.ox.ac.uk), St Antony’s College. 

This conference is generously supported by the AHRC-funded ‘Socialism Goes Global’ project (http://socialismgoesglobal.exeter.ac.uk), and organized by the European Studies Centre in partnership with the Centre for Global History and the African Studies Centre.