Written by guest blogger, Meredith Terretta.


In November 1959, Ernest Ouandié, the Vice-President of the Union of the Populations of Cameroon (UPC), wrote from exile in Cairo to Ralph Millner, British Queen’s Counsel and activist lawyer who had defended Kwame Nkrumah (later Ghana’s first president) against allegations of inciting labour riots in late 1940s Accra. Ouandié asked for Millner’s assistance in an upcoming trial in British Cameroons of two UPC organizers and labour activists from French Cameroon who had been detained in the British territory for overstaying their transit visas by a mere 24 hours. Based on the outcome of previous trials of UPC activists in British territory, Ouandié believed that if Mayoa Beck and Louis-Fernand Yopa were found guilty of the charges against them, they would be declared “prohibited immigrants” and escorted into the custody of Franco-Cameroonian security forces across the Anglo-French boundary. Here they would certainly be arrested again for posing a threat to state security. Convictions for crimes such as these in the politically charged atmosphere of French Cameroon’s decolonization resulted in the severest of punishments including life imprisonment with hard labour, and execution. Ouandié asked Millner to defend Beck and Yopa on the charges against them, but also to prepare a request for their political asylum in British territory, or their deportation to independent Ghana — rather than to French Cameroon — in case they were convicted.

I discovered Ouandié’s letter in 2016 at the Institute for Commonwealth Studies Library among Millner’s personal papers and was excited that it backed up what I already knew: lawyers who defended Africans in colonial courtrooms throughout Africa during the age of decolonization worked together across national and imperial borders. Looking at these activities from a cross-border perspective entirely reshaped my historical understanding of Africa’s decolonization.

Since 2010 I had been interested in how anticolonial activism across the African continent linked to networks elsewhere, as well as how it brought together internationalists who had adopted the then-novel concept of universal human rights. As I started this project, I knew I wanted to prioritize sources other than the usual official colonial records in order to gain access to the views of those who stood apart from imperial authorities. I began with the case files and correspondence of activists such as African political agitators, anticolonialist lawyers, and leaders of the first transnational NGOs such as International League of the Rights of Man, the Movement for Colonial Freedom, or the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. I learned which lawyers had devoted the height of their careers to the anticolonial cause, and read their trial records and memoirs.

The most exciting letters I found were the ones that revealed that French and British activist lawyers corresponded with each other, and that African inhabitants of French-controlled territories engaged British citizens as defense lawyers; that Indian lawyers represented Africans in colonial Kenya and Tanganyika; and that Caribbean-born lawyers with British or French citizenship were among those who took up the anticolonial cause through law. I also found plenty of evidence that showed how British and French officials saw coordinated, international legal activism as a threat. This is starkly clear in the recently discovered and released Migrated Archive of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Great Britain — the colonial records that the British took with them as the empire decolonized.

My array of sources presented Africa’s decolonization as reaching beyond the imperially-bordered stories historians have gathered from research in state and colonial records. I realized that if I reconceived of Africa’s decolonization as an international legal strategy, I could demonstrate that activist lawyers and their African clients implemented this strategy to transform the law — upon which colonial administrators had, until now, relied to govern — into an instrument of contestation and ultimately liberation.

African political leaders and their anticolonialist defense lawyers contributed to three internationally transformative projects gathering momentum after the Second World War: decolonization, the Cold War, and human rights. Because of my new perspective on the transregional legal activism in Africa at this time, I reached three ground-breaking conclusions about the way that anticolonial legal activism worked with these factors.

First, revolutionary African anticolonialism was expressed in a practice of legal activism that sought to make the law accessible not only to elites, but to the colonial subjects who, until this moment, the law had subjugated, controlled, and guaranteed fewer rights. The International Association of Democratic Lawyers articulated this strategy most clearly in using the phrase “human rights,” in 1947, to orient its vision of the law’s potential to dismantle imperial power.

Second, the Cold War front in 1940s and 1950s Africa was much smaller — although no less potent — than the armed struggles and proxy wars that characterized it in the 1960s and 1970s. In the earlier period, the Cold War took root in the lawyers who represented the interests of Africans seeking to shape how the law would look once territories decolonized. Here, the figure of Dudley Thompson, the British-Jamaican lawyer who seems to have served as unwilling informant for the British colonial government, depicts poignantly how the Cold War front fissured personal relationships and subverted loyalties.

Finally, though in 1940s and 1950s Africa the international legal strategy that most successfully invoked human rights operated in the service of a revolutionary, socialist and Pan-Africanist agenda, in the late 1950s the formation (with CIA funds) of the International Commission of Jurists gave rise to a new international legal strategy to neutralize that of activists. In the ICJ’s international legal strategy, human rights and the rule of law — rather than its democratization — were the primary objectives. It was a strategy that preserved the law’s power to uphold the status quo rather than undo it. Its emphasis on individual rights weakened the ability of collective projects — like those explored in my article — to transform the structural inequalities that colonialism had established.

The exciting possibility that arises from these findings is that decolonizing Africa may be where human rights were first transformed from a project for economic, social, and racial equality into the liberal project of individual rights protections that emerged in the late 1970s. My article only gestures toward this possibility, but the empirical evidence I’ve mustered here is sufficient, I hope, to encourage further investigation.


Photo of author Meredith Terretta

Meredith Terretta holds the Gordon F. Henderson Research Chair in Human Rights and is an associate professor of history at the University of Ottawa. She is currently working on a book tentatively titled Activism at the Fringes of Empire: Rogue Lawyers and Rights Activists In and Out of Twentieth Century Africa. She is Vice-President of the Canadian Association of African Studies. Her latest article, “Anti-Colonial Lawyering, Postwar Human Rights, and Decolonization across Imperial Boundaries in Africa,” appears in issue 52.3 of the Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d’histoire and is available here for FREE for a limited time: https://doi.org/10.3138/cjh.ach.52.3.03.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Written by guest blogger, Florence Ashley.


Stylized sculpture of woman's head, top seperated from mouth up to reveal text insideImage by Nelly Wat

I was presenting at the Pride Canada National Conference held in Montreal less than a year ago. My presentation centered on my paper “Don’t be so hateful: The insufficiency of anti-discrimination and hate crime laws in improving trans well-being” which was recently published by the University of Toronto Law Journal in what I believe to be the first-ever special issue on trans law in Canadian history. Without going at lengths about the content of the article—I hope you will choose to read it in its entirety—it may be characterised as highly critical of Bill C-16. More particularly, I paint the bill as largely symbolic and as promising but meagre payoff for pan-Canadian trans well-being.

In the questions period, Susan walked up to the microphone and asked me a question. I must admit that my recollection is rather fuzzy, but two bits of information stand out. Firstly, she called me the next Viviane Namaste which, in my book, is one of the highest praise to be received. And secondly, she questioned the binary labelling of laws as symbolic and substantial, highlighting how laws which are purely symbolic on the surface can be effective educational tools.

Although I continue to believe that purely symbolic laws should be criticised, the underlying critique stays with me to this day. The symbolic is one of the most characteristic traits of human societies. We lead symbolic lives, and deal in symbols every day of our lives. What does it mean, as activists who aspire to a grounded approach, to demean symbolic change?

Indeed, the very same activists who seek to radically alter the arrangement of society oftentimes spend significant amounts of time analysing the minutia of language on the grounds that linguistic changes are an integral part of social change. Nowhere is this truer than in trans activism, where critiques of language are omnipresent—I myself contributed a chapter on transantagonism in the French language to the acclaimed book Dictionnaire critique du sexisme linguistique.

Can I with one hand critique legislative focus on symbols while writing chapters on symbols and linguistic sexism with the other hand?

To quote from the great G.A. Cohen, “The present paper has no conclusion.” I do not have a satisfactory answer to this question. But as I think of how I stand vis-à-vis the issue, I also wonder if consistency and coherence is something we should ask of ourselves.

Perhaps the best we can do is be incoherent. Perhaps the value of the critique of symbolic legislation is not so much to highlight the limitations of symbols, but to recall us to the very real lives of trans people who aren’t helped by our laws. People who, like Sisi Thibert, didn’t find survival in anti-discrimination and hate crime laws. People who need us to do something else, to do more.


Florence Ashley is an LLM Candidate at McGill University in Montreal. Metaphorically, a cyborg witch with flowers in her hair. Read her article “Don’t be so hateful: The insufficiency of anti-discrimination and hate crime laws in improving trans well-being” in the latest issue of the University of Toronto Law Journal here: https://doi.org/10.3138/utlj.2017-0057

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Written by guest blogger, Toby Harper.


 

2017 was the centenary of the Order of the British Empire. Lloyd George’s war government created it in 1917 to recognize the voluntary civilian war effort in Britain and throughout the British Empire. At the time it was without precedent in the British honours system. It was distributed on a far greater scale and to a wider social range than any previous honour, most of which had been reserved for a narrow band of social and political elites. Today the Order is still the most numerically-important of all the state honours given out twice a year by the British Crown to citizens who have been judged worthy of recognition.

Since the 1950s politicians, journalists and potential recipients in both the former empire and Britain have argued that the name is offensive, inaccurate, and anachronistic. This debate flared up again last year at the Order’s centenary. One of the main objections to changing the name at the centenary was that it was difficult or impossible to formally change the name of an order. This was not true: the Order was an invented tradition which had changed multiple times, evolving with changing requirements of British and sometimes even colonial governments. Yet this has been a common defense of the name, along with numerous other objections: that the name was popular; that Australians liked it (a decade before they dropped it); that only the wrong sort of colonial subjects disliked it; that those who disliked it were in a minority; that those who disliked it did not understand it; that Prince Philip (who proposed a name change) was a meddler; and that the name had historic, traditional weight.

My article in the Canadian Journal of History charts the sporadic debates about the name in parliament, the press, Whitehall, and the Palace. It shows how a small group of civil servants defended the name against objections from a range of people who worried that it compromised the Crown or the Government in their relationships with colonial, former colonial, and British citizens. At the core of this defense of the name, I argue, was a nostalgia for empire that sought to defuse its legacy. The name was not problematic or offensive, its defender’s argued, but quaint. The Order was transmuted almost overnight from an imperial to a national one, in the process forgetting its roots in imperial politics and ideology. By the beginning of the twenty-first century this meant that British citizens of imperial descent were effectively offered a deal: accept this nostalgic version of empire in order to be included, or reject it and be alienated from a widely publicized and generally popular national institution. In other words, the Order of the British Empire now offers official inclusion at the price of forgetting empire.


Toby Harper is an assistant professor of history at Providence College, Rhode Island. His latest article, “The Order of the British Empire After the British Empire,” appears in issue 52.3 of the Canadian Journal of History/Annales Canadiennes d’Histoire and is available here for FREE for a limited time: https://doi.org/10.3138/cjh.ach.52.3.05

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Written by guest blogger, Katherine Turner.


Cover of Mary Anne by Daphne du MaurierCover of Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier

I first became aware of Mary Anne Clarke when I was asked to edit a group of scandalous memoirs by 18th-century and Regency women (Women’s Court and Society Memoirs, published in 2010 by Pickering and Chatto, now Routledge). Although writing the voluminous footnotes proved to be a grim task, I became fascinated by how these women mixed up the popular genres of memoir, scandal narrative and political satire to vindicate themselves to a reading public hungry for tales of misbehavior in high places. One of the texts I edited was The Rival Princes, an exposé published in 1810 by the courtesan Mary Anne Clarke of her role in a national scandal which had almost brought down the government in 1809 when it was revealed that she had used her adulterous relationship with the Duke of York to acquire promotions for cronies of hers in the army, the church, the East India Company, and even the House of Commons. When the scandal broke, Clarke was the star witness in a protracted Parliamentary trial which was reported in gleeful detail in the newspapers. The case also inspired many satirical cartoons which reached every corner of Britain, their saucy images of the Duke of York and his mistress in bed together doing yet further damage to the shaky reputation of the British royal family. Many of the cartoons, some by the Regency’s finest satirical artists such as Cruikshank and Rowlandson, can be viewed via the British Museum‘s excellent website; simply search the collections (for ‘images only’) using the term “Mary Anne Clarke,” and a whopping 189 items appear. (The British Museum’s copyright regulations prohibit electronic transmission, so alas I am unable to reproduce them here.)

In tandem with my historical research into the scandal, I soon discovered that Clarke was the great-great-grandmother of Daphne du Maurier, and that in 1954 du Maurier published a fictionalized biography of Clarke, entitled Mary Anne. Happy to have an excuse to escape from historical footnotes, I indulged myself for a few months by reading through most of du Maurier’s fictional oeuvre. Like many of du Maurier’s readers, I was drawn in by her tight plotting, evocative sense of place, and complex (even villainous) female characters, and by the subtexts of feminist indignation which run through many of her novels. Virago have recently reissued many of the novels with pithy introductions by contemporary women writers and critics, and if you don’t know them already, then I urge you to rush out right now and get copies. They make excellent reading for the holiday season, whether you’re in search of tense psychological drama (RebeccaMy Cousin Rachel) or more bodice-ripping historical yarns (Jamaica Inn).

Mary Anne, as my recent article in UTQ observes, is a bit of an anomaly for du Maurier; since it was grounded in so much historical reality, du Maurier had less imaginative freedom than when writing her other works, and she clearly found the translation of her historical ancestor into a novelistic character to be quite a challenge. But in many ways this is one of her greatest achievements; not only does du Maurier bring to life a complex and colorful period in English history, which captured the public imagination in ways similar to cases such as the OJ Simpson trial or the Clinton impeachment; she also uses the novel to meditate upon her own literary ancestry, and to trace her own creative energies back to this indomitable woman. Mary Anne Clarke comes across as both heroine and victim, and the way in which she exposes the powerful men who exploited and ultimately abandoned her continues to resonate today.


Katherine Turner‘s article “Daphne du Maurier’s Mary Anne: Rewriting the Regency Romance as Feminist History” can be found in the latest issue of University of Toronto Quarterly. Read it online here: http://bit.ly/utq864.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Proust Questionnaire

R. Darren Gobert is the author of The Mind-Body Stage (Stanford University Press), The Theatre of Caryl Churchill (Bloomsbury), and numerous articles on modern and contemporary drama, dramatic and performance theory, and the philosophy of theatre. His honours include best-book prizes from the Canadian Association for Theatre Research and the American Society for Theatre Research, the John Charles Polanyi Prize for Literature, and both the Dean’s Award (2007) and President’s University-Wide Award for Outstanding Teaching (2016) at York University, where he teaches in English and Theatre & Performance Studies. He is also appointed to the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto, where he edits Modern Drama.

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A: When the right subject finds the right verb.

Q: What is your greatest fear?

A: Running out of ideas.

Q: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

A: Impatience.

Q: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

A: Lack of consideration.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?

A: Mary Norris.

Q: What is your greatest extravagance?

A: Travel!

Q: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

A: “Productivity”.

Q: When and where were you happiest?

A: Whenever I see a perfect, final proof.

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

A: My introversion.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A: Whatever piece of writing I have just finished, for a few minutes before I revert to nitpicking.

Q: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

A: Reading, say, the New York Times and seeing “less” when “fewer” is meant.

Q: What is your most marked characteristic?

A: Attention to detail.

Q: What do you most value in your friends?

A: A sense of humour.

Q: Who are your favorite writers?

A: Too many to list, but currently I’m dazzled by Selma Lagerlöf.

Q: What is it that you most dislike?

A: Indifference to good writing (which is distinct from difficulty writing well).

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Empowering Diversity

November 7, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Dr. Walter Schultz. Dr. Walter Schultz. Empowering diversity, thereby securing a multicultural society, may depend on how we retain the unique human person within the context of family, ethnicity and culture. How do we reconcile or, if need be, overcome individualism and collectivism? The person, developed and sustained within community, is […]

Read the full article →

An interview between the Canadian Journal of History/Annales Canadiennes d’Histoire and Jan Záhořík, author of “Czechoslovakia and Congo/Zaire under Mobutu, 1965-1980” (Part 2 of 2)

November 6, 2017

Written by the Canadian Journal of History/Annales Canadiennes d’Histoire Author Dr. Jan Záhořík Jan Záhořík is an Africanist who teaches at the department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. His article on the Cold War relationship between the former Czechoslovakia and Congo/Zaire is available in the latest issue of […]

Read the full article →

In Memoriam: Anita DeVivo, 26 June 1930–29 September 2017

November 1, 2017

Anita DeVivo was a Consulting Editor of Scholarly Publishing (now the Journal of Scholarly Publishing) from October 1979 to July 1992 (volumes 11–23) under the editorship of Ian Montagnes. She served in a leadership and consulting capacity for a wide range of professional organizations, including the Society for Scholarly Publishing, the Council of Biology Editors, […]

Read the full article →

An interview between the Canadian Journal of History/Annales Canadiennes d’Histoire and Jan Záhořík, author of “Czechoslovakia and Congo/Zaire under Mobutu, 1965-1980” (Part 1 of 2)

October 30, 2017

Written by the Canadian Journal of History/Annales Canadiennes d’Histoire Author Dr. Jan Záhořík Jan Záhořík is an Africanist who teaches at the department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. His article on the Cold War relationship between the former Czechoslovakia and Congo/Zaire is available in the latest issue of […]

Read the full article →

Attempting to Publish with Images of a Super™ Well-Known Intellectual Property

October 26, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Christopher B. Zeichmann. Image from Look Magazine 17 Feb 1940. Christopher B. Zeichmann, “Champion of the Oppressed: Redescribing the Jewishness of Superman as Populist Authenticity Politics.” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 29.2 (Summer 2017) – now available to read here It’s exciting enough to get a manuscript accepted for publication, […]

Read the full article →