Afro-Asian Internationalisms in the Early Cold War
Excerpted from the Editors’ Introduction:
On the cover of the Jakarta Reporters Club handbook to the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference is an iconic photograph of a rickshaw driver looking up at a large billboard, featuring a map of the 29 participating nations stretching from China to Ghana. Bandung was once a colonial resort town, nestled in the mountainous tea plantations of West Java, and gained notoriety during the Indonesian Revolution, when Indonesians burned down part of their own town in response to the Dutch reoccupation of the city. Over six days in April, however, the modernist hillside bungalows housed not wealthy Dutchmen but the leaders of Asia’s largest powers. The city itself was overrun with diplomats, statesmen, journalists, and photographers enacting a spectacular moment of resurgence for nations emerging from colonial rule.
This special issue examines “other Bandungs”: conferences in the 1950s and 1960s that convened the decolonising world in different constellations. All the gatherings examined in this issue have in common that they were not styled as intergovernmental affairs. They did not convene heads of state, even though several of them were covertly or overtly state-sponsored. And none of them were completely disconnected from the state: delegations included civil servants, members of parliament, representatives of local and provincial governments, opposition leaders, government advisors, and state-appointed representatives. Together, they show the presence of a much broader Afro-Asian enthusiasm. While some of the early conferences foreshadow Bandung and solidify the connections that made the official conference possible, later conferences self-consciously claimed to be expressions of the Bandung Spirit, or at the very least located themselves vis-à-vis the Bandung conference.
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