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Apartheid -- The Global Itinerary: South African Cultural Formations in Transnational Circulation, 1948-1990

Final Report Summary - APARTHEID-STOPS (Apartheid -- The Global Itinerary: South African Cultural Formations in Transnational Circulation, 1948-1990)

Apartheid moved things. The South African government exiled political activists, intellectuals, writers, photographers, and musicians. The ERC-funded project “Apartheid—The Global Itinerary” has employed the outward trajectories of South African cultural agents and cultural formations beyond the borders of that country to investigate how apartheid functioned as a catalyst for transnational cultural production. Arguing against South Africa’s isolationism, we have shown how the activities of exiled cultural agents, together with the circulation of expressive culture across a wide range of media, fuelled the debate on apartheid in the international public sphere. The notion of the “restlessness of apartheid” provides conceptual shorthand for addressing the “global itineraries” of dissident South African expressive culture (Bethlehem 2018).

At their multiple points of global diffusion, works of anti-apartheid expressive culture were themselves enfolded within situated local narratives and imprinted with local political conflicts. What, we asked, were the consequences of this circulation for the struggle against racism in a historical period dominated by the Cold War and decolonisation? How was apartheid used to frame other conflicts over race and racial inequality?

Through charting the circulation of apartheid-era cultural formations, we have generated innovative perspectives on the history of societies other than South Africa, allowing for the better integration of South African cultural history into scholarly accounts of the Cold War and of decolonisation. Our findings encompass a highly diverse range of geopolitical contexts whether in the liberal West (Britain, France, the United States of America), the Soviet Union, socialist Hungary and Cuba, the Middle East (Israel, Palestine), and decolonising Africa (Algeria, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Zaire), uniting these analyses within a *single* analytical framework. Combining fine-grained reconstructions of the cultural agency of exiled anti-apartheid figures with the close analysis of cultural works in circulation, we have restored neglected arenas to view in the struggle against apartheid, whether within or beyond Western settings.

Additionally, we have applied our paradigm to transnational solidarity movements. We have developed new insights regarding the use of political analogy in the consolidation of political imaginaries that challenged racism and apartheid on the part of transnational black radical activists within a Cold War order. Responding to calls to decolonise academic knowledge production, we have explored multiple intersections between anti-apartheid resistance and solidarity movements in the global South, including diasporic and continental forms of pan-Africanism, African socialism, Négritude, Afro-Asian solidarity, and tricontinentalism. These efforts promise to impact how we view such contemporary developments as Afropolitanism and Black Lives Matter.

An international cohort of researchers including literary scholars, cultural theorists, visual culture scholars, musicologists, and historians have worked together to create the rich interdisciplinary dialogue fundamental to a project of this magnitude. With international collaborators, the project organised two major international conferences in Johannesburg and Copenhagen, and several smaller workshops. Our team conducted extensive public outreach and ran an active research blog: Among the numerous publications generated by the project are two special issues of _Safundi_(19.3 and 20.2) and a special issue of _Critical Arts_ currently under review. Our research has also appeared in other leading academic journals including _Social Text_, _Interventions_, _Social Dynamics_, _African Identities_ and _The English Historical Review_.

As a collective, we have expanded the understanding of what might constitute legitimate archives for exploring political imaginaries in relation to apartheid. Our use of non-traditional archival sources promises to provide new research agendas for future scholarship. The bleak resurgence of racism in the present political moment serves as an ongoing reminder of the need to use the historical record to help us imagine new alliances in the face of the threat that racism poses to our shared humanity.