The Face of Fascism

Wednesday, 15 June, 2016 - 13:00

WiSER invites you to a lunchtime seminar by

Leslie James

The Face of Fascism: Features of a Fascist Repertoire from Colonial West Africa

As European intellectuals struggled to bind an ideological shape to fascist pronouncements and as anti-fascist organisers became preoccupied with the threat of fascism’s mobility across the Continent, so educated Africans reckoned with both the ideological underpinnings and migrating drift of fascism. African historians have explored the existence of fascist groups and activity in certain colonies, especially South Africa, and have paved the way for histories that demonstrate the existence of fascist legal codes, practices, and activity outside Europe. Arendtian frameworks are now being usefully applied to the historiography of imperialism in Africa. Yet most historical scholarship on fascism outside Europe is concerned with ‘actually existing’ fascism and the extent to which it correlates with imperialism, rather than with how local people fitted fascism into their epistemological frameworks. And in the realm of intellectual history, African responses to fascism have been almost completely written out of genealogies of the idea of fascism. By applying a critical approach to news reports, letters and editorials across the late 1930s, this paper shows how authors, editors, and contributors applied creative rhetorical and visual cues to evade accusations of sedition while still assessing the attitudes, habits and practices of fascism. West African newspapers are littered with references to Hitlerism and Mussolini beside reports of forced labour practices in Kenya and Rhodesia; of segregation and ‘extermination’ policies carried out by General Hertzog and his government in South Africa; of complaints of censorship of the press and literature. Using a relational process whereby West African intellectuals tested the nature of fascism against the practices of colonial rule, they produced a multi-sited, intra-regional and referentially coded cipher for what fascism signified.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

WiSER Seminar Room,
6th Floor, Richard Ward Building,
East Campus, Wits University

Leslie James is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Department of African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham. She is the author of George Padmore and Decolonization from Below: Pan-Africanism, the Cold War, and the End of Empire published in 2015 in Palgrave's Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series.

All welcome.