Workshop: Re-evaluating Africa and World War II, 03/08
A workshop to be held at Rutgers University
March 28 - 29, 2008
World War II remains an important touchstone in American and European
history. Most documentaries or texts that discuss the war make passing
reference to Africa's engagement in World War II, and when they do, they
tend to concentrate on North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa contributed
substantially to the war effort and was greatly affected by the war. For
most Africans the impact of the war was mediated through the policies and
redirected priorities of their colonial masters. As Nancy Lawler argues,
Britain and France in particular "
looked to their overseas territories to
continue to fulfill their well-established role in the imperial
.the colonies were expected not only to support themselves, but to
provide resources, both natural and human, for the good of the respective
metropoles." Across the continent, communities mobilized to support the
war effort. They contributed financial support both directly and
indirectly. They supplied soldiers in a variety of capacities and they
provided resources for the troops. In small and large ways mobilizing for
World War II transformed people's lives whether they fought in France or
Burma or remained in their towns and villages.
This workshop seeks to explore the social, cultural, political and
economic impact of World War II on the continent. In addition, the
workshop will explore the possibility of launching a major publication
project that would result in the production of a text and supporting
materials (web site, CD-ROMS, images, primary documents) that can be used
in advanced undergraduate classes on Africa, the African diaspora, and
more general classes on World War II. This text will fill a void in the
historiography on twentieth century Africa. Many of us teach World War II
in our survey and topical courses in African history, and it is treated in
our texts and courses as a `watershed event' in colonial African history.
Yet, there is no extant text that brings together the threads of this
event as a transformative process in the continent's colonial history.
This text will provide a continental perspective. It will examine a range
of questions and topics that highlight the experiences of African
soldiers, the impact of the war on communities as well as cultural and
social processes shaped by this watershed event.
How were men recruited for the war effort? How did war-time mobilization
affect African villages, towns and cities? What were the experiences of
conscripted men, as well as male and female volunteers? For African
soldiers who served in other parts of the continent, what was the nature
of the interaction between these soldiers and local communities? What was
the nature of the interaction between African and African American
soldiers in Europe and in Africa? How did the war affect cultural
practices and production? What impact did the war have on gender and
generational relations? How did it affect notions of African and European
masculinity? How were African men and women represented in cultural
productions about World War II? How was the war memorialized in Africa?
How did the war affect African attitudes about empire? How did the war
transform African armies? What was the fate of African war veterans after
We envision a workshop in which each participant presents a paper of 7 10
pages. Participants should bring a sampling of photos and primary
documents as well as pedagogical ideas for the text and supporting
If you are working on any of these topics, please send a one page
abstract to Judith Byfield <firstname.lastname@example.org> by November 30th, 2007.
Carolyn Brown Department of History, Rutgers University New Brunswick
Judith Byfield Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University
Gregory Mann Department of History, Columbia University
Ahmad Sikainga Department of History, Ohio State University
Page Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D.