Fifty Years after 1968: Research on the Global 1960s, Part 3: Third Worldism in the Global 1960s

AHA Session 213
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Hampton Room (Omni Shoreham, East Lobby)
Andrew Ivaska, Concordia University
Andrew Ivaska, Concordia University

Session Abstract

The concept of the “Third World” emerged during the Cold War in France as a nod to the revolutionary potential of the “Third Estate” during the French Revolution. This catch-all phrase came to encompass the “peripheral,” often postcolonial, nations not aligned with the “core” states at the heart of the US-USSR standoff. Although this rather expansive and heterogeneous category makes little sense in a post-Cold War world, the term exists in popular discourse, often to indicate a lack of developed infrastructures or institutions. However, in the 1960s, many critics of the gaping political and economic inequalities of both the so-called “developing” and “developed” nations looked to the Third World, real and imagined, as a source of inspiration for possible resistance. Liberation struggles waged by vastly out-armed guerillas in the “Third World” confirmed for many the real power of dedicated people in the face of seemingly unbeatable economic and military strength. The idea of “Third Worldism” called for a solidarity among these ostensibly weaker people to combat the perceived imperialism of both US and USSR foreign policies.

This panel includes four papers that trace “Third Worldism” in various contexts, in Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Some key questions they ask concern how New Left activists grappled with applying definitions of the Third World to their own circumstances, how the end of empire made a clear demarcation between the “First” and “Third World” impossible, and how ideas and people crossing borders shaped understanding of the Third World and Third Worldism. Together, these presentations help recover and clarify a key intellectual influence on many social movements in the global 1960s.

Social movements of the 1960s powerfully define the world we live in today. From citizen protests to decolonization struggles, collective action created and responded to global events and ideas.

Welcoming in the fifty-year anniversary of the iconic year of 1968, this workshop brings together scholars working in various areas to assess the state of historical research on the 1960s. It will challenge historians working across regions to consider how to link their case studies and thus consider what can be meant by the "global 1960s." It will also stage discussions on key ideas in the sixties, such as Black Power and Third Worldism, that transformed understandings of race, ethnicity, and power. This workshop will put into conversation scholars who would not usually present together, fostering a truly global perspective.