Date of Award

2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

History

First Advisor

Cheikh Babou

Abstract

This dissertation looks at the Maghreb as a Pan-African space of cultural resistance to the forces of neocolonialism and Cold War imperialism during the 1960s and ‘70s. Upon independence, the Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian governments, eager to emerge as world leaders, offered military and financial aid to ongoing liberation struggles in Africa, as well as in the Americas. This support motivated artists such as Black American beat-poet Ted Joans, Angolan poet-militant Mario de Andrade, and Guadeloupean filmmaker Sarah Maldoror to travel or even move to the Maghreb. There they encountered Maghrebi artists, such as Moroccan poet Abdellatif Laâbi, and Algerian poet Jean Sénac. Together they transformed the streets and cafes of Rabat, Tunis and Algiers, into havens for militant-artists from across the world. In order to recover these spaces and moments of encounter, I have conducted interviews, scoured through artists’ personal papers, and explored state and diplomatic archives. Through French, English, Portuguese, and Arabic sources, this project uncovers the lost history of collaboration at the grass-roots level between revolutionary artist militants from across Africa and the globe.

The encounters between artists in the Maghreb of the 1960s radically altered the language and reality of postcolonial alliances. From a solidarity based primarily on race and hinged upon national liberation was born a transnational movement of revolutionary poetics that used poetry, violence, and sex as tools to reclaim space from the colonial powers and the new postcolonial states. Geographical distinctions made by the academy between northern and sub-Saharan Africa have obscured the realities of these political and cultural alliances. This dissertation makes clear that it is no coincidence that this transition happened in the Maghreb. The Maghreb’s interstitial position between the Middle East and Africa challenged pre-existing assumptions of racial solidarity and forced new forms of identification. This ideological shift indicates that in the 1960s and ‘70s, when historians have argued that intellectuals, politicians, and artists concentrated on nation building, a number of artists and militants from the postcolonial world ignored their governments’ call to protect the nation-state and forged a transnational network that undermined the very foundations of these new nations.

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