Current Institutional Affiliation
History, Columbia University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Columbia University
The July Revolution and the African Revolution: Egypt and the Emergence of a Continental Identity, 1952-1970

At once an intellectual and a political history, this project is concerned with the re-making of the idea of ‘Africa’ in the 1950s and 1960s. Focusing on revolutionary Egypt under Muhammad Neguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser, I seek to trace the impact of continental pan-African nationalism on the process and possibilities of African decolonization broadly speaking. In looking at the end of French, British and Belgian colonial rule and the early years of independence as a period amenable to a reconfiguration of broader political allegiances, I will be particularly interested in tracing both the genealogical expansion of the term ‘African’ to include the ‘Arab’ residents of northern Africa and its strategic deployment to legitimate a new kind of radical anti-colonial international politics. I argue that Egyptian officials and intellectuals appealed to their country’s ‘African’ identity’ not only as an attempt to forge a new supranational political constituency but also from a conviction that the Egyptian ‘July Revolution’ could itself only succeed as part of an integrated continental and Third Worldist revolution. This project will therefore examine both the discourse and the materiality of Egyptian Africanism. Focussing on relations with Algeria, Ghana and Congo, and using interviews, recorded radio broadcasts and governmental archives, I will explore the diplomatic, military, economic and cultural dimensions of Egyptian involvement. The literature on decolonization is still teleologically preoccupied with the nation-state: my research on Egyptian Pan-Africanism will demonstrate the extent to which trans- and supra-national understanding of political organization also played key roles in the ending of European colonialism. Considering the major importance of Ghana in this period as a pioneer state in African independence and as a rival site of Pan-Africanist activity, my project will also involve examining the Ghanaian reaction to Egypt’s newly-found African vocationalism.