Looking back: first two meetings Huizinga Instituut Working Group on Utopia and Social Dreaming in Connected and Entangled Perspective

The Huizinga Instituut Working Group on utopia and Social Dreaming in Connected and Entangled Perspective conducted its first two sessions in September and November. Our first session had group member Dr Carolien Stolte, University Lecturer in History at leiden University, presenting an article by her on ‘”The People’s Bandung”: Local Anti-imperialists on an Afro-Asian Stage’, Journal of World History, Volume 30, Numbers 1-2, June 2019, pp. 125-156. This took place in the conference room of the Institute for History, Huizinga Building, Leiden University, on 23 September 2019. RMA students from Utrecht University attended, in addition to the group members and the presenter at the following Working Group session, Dr Joppan George, Fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden University. Carolien argued thatwhile the 1955 intergovernmental Conference of Asian-African Countries at Bandung is widely regarded as the beginning of the Afro-Asian movement, it is less well known that eleven days prior to the Bandung Conference, a conference was convened in New Delhi that should be considered its unofficial counterpart. In contrast to Bandung, which was closed to the public, large crowds attended the Delhi conference. Officially known as the Conference of Asian Countries for the Relaxation of International Tension, the conference was also instrumental in the formation of the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization (AAPSO). In contrast to the “official” Bandung, this movement sought bottom-up, mass-based support for decolonization and nuclear disarmament through popular manifestations of international solidarity. Carolien widened our notion of the “Bandung Moment” by focusing not on interstate diplomacy but on more popular, as well as more populous, expressions of the “Bandung Spirit.” There was animated discussion, including on women’s transnational civic activism and on the role of Paul Robeson.

The second session of this working group was a joint one, on 25 November 2019, with the Modern South Asia Seminar at Leiden University. Dr Joppan George, who got his Ph.D. from Princeton University this year, and is a Fellow at IIAS Leiden presented on “Colonial Airmindedness: Views from British India.” He charted the course of airmindedness and the birth of the aerial being in India in the interwar years of the 20th century through a reading of the counter-archive of historical romances, memoirs, radio broadcasts, phrasebooks, travelogues, hoaxes, and rumors to recuperate the colonial subjects’ self-fashioning of technological modernity. Participants included Dr Steffen Rimner (International History, Utrecht U), Dr Radhika Gupta (Leiden U), and Dr Ole Laursen (Fellow, IIAS, Leiden), in addition to the working group members and many students from the Leiden South and South-east Asia undergraduate teaching programme.

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The next working group meeting will take place on 11 December in Groningen, by Dr Vera Alexander on Entangled Gardens. More information soon.