Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of Wisconsin / Madison

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Wisconsin / Madison
Africa and the Atlantic Imagination: An Intellectual History of Empire and Black Internationalism in the Twentieth Century

My project explores how black intellectuals from around the twentieth-century Atlantic world experienced and imagined Africa. The first part focuses on Caribbean colonizers, descendants of slaves from French and British colonies in the Caribbean who became colonial administrators in Africa in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The second part examines the interactions between these figures and other black intellectuals such as Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Alain Locke, and C. L. R. James. The final part analyzes the deaths and contested memorializations of these figures. My hypothesis is that the intellectual strands of empire and black internationalism were intertwined in the ways that Caribbean colonizers and other black intellectuals in the diaspora thought about Africa. I am suggesting that interrogating the ideas of—and interactions between—this range of thinkers will reveal will reveal how colonial ideas about race, progress, and geography fuelled and structured black internationalist thinking. I am also suggesting that the intellectual confluence between empire and black internationalism contributed to new ways of thinking about a symbolic "Africa," eventually resulting in the ideological creation of an "African Diaspora" in the 1960s. At the heart of this project is the tension between an Africa simultaneously experienced and imagined, lived and invented, real and hyperreal. This project is significant because it reveals how systems and ideologies such as imperialism, colonialism, Negritude, and Pan-Africanism—often divided up as either pro-colonial or anti-colonial—were in fact bound together across this supposed divide by their ideas about Africa. My research will deepen understandings of empire, diaspora, black internationalism, and ultimately, the intellectual history of the Atlantic world.