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In Session: And Then There Were Hindus, Asiatics and Orientals: Identity Making and Performance in Europe
2: Decolonizing 1968: European Myth Making and Asian and African Political Narratives
Monday, March 22, 2021
10:00am – 11:30am EDT
Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany
In 1955, delegates from 29 countries met in Indonesia for the so called Bandung Conference under the exclusion of the superpowers Russia and the United States to discuss politics of anti-imperialism, non-alignment, and decolonisation. Its repercussions of the conference, the so called ‘Spirit of Bandung’, were also felt in the two Germanies at the time, the state-socialist German Democratic Republic and the liberal-capitalist Federal Republic of Germany. One way to establish such a diplomatic field was to actively recruit hundreds of African and Asian students in the mid-1950s to visit universities in the two Germanies. With a particular emphasis on the so called pan-Asian student group, I discuss in this paper how these students organized themselves across the Iron Curtain, intervened in the post-War German public spheres with anti-imperial and decolonial political protests, speeches, and performances, and arguably politicized the bourgeoning German student movement that up to this day are perceived as the sole actors of the history of the German New Left. The role that the pan-African and pan-Asian students groups played for what came to be known as the ‘1968-movement’ In examining this untapped archive of non-alignment student groups in East and West Germany and their political discourses and practices, I challenge the image of ‘1968’ as an inner-Western project and question wide-spread assumption that Germany never experienced a phase of decolonization.