Transnational Visions and Solidarities: A Workshop for Educators, Artists and Thinkers

Transnational Visions and Solidarities:
A Workshop for Educators, Artists and Thinkers
Tuesday, June 25, 2019, 1:00-5:00 p.m.
The Wende Museum of the Cold War


In conjunction with the exhibition Nonalignment and Tito in Africa, the Wende Museum presents a workshop for educators. Curators and scholars Paul Betts (Oxford University), Radina Vučetić (University of Belgrade), and Robeson Taj Frazier (USC) will offer presentations on the Nonaligned Movement and Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito, and invite discussion about how the themes of transnational solidarity and a “third way” beyond the Cold War’s capitalism-communism binary can be meaningfully explored with students and others today. Following presentations, a panel discussion will be moderated by scholar Choi Chatterjee (Cal State LA).


Nonalignment and Tito in Africa

The Cold War is commonly viewed as a geopolitical struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States, and an ideological clash between their divergent socialist and capitalist models of economic and political development. Yet what gets effaced in this narrative are the hundreds of millions of people from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, the United States, and elsewhere who refused to accept this bipolar division of the world.

The Nonaligned Movement (NAM, 1961–present) was part of this world project. Rather than position themselves on either side of the U.S.-Soviet divide, the governments and political parties that came to encompass NAM pushed for nonalignment and peaceful co-existence. These principles entailed a shift away from international relations based on power politics and national interests to relations based on morality and world peace. NAM’s objective was the creation of a global anti-imperialist social movement and peaceful world order grounded in a commitment to justice, opposition to colonialism and empire, the redistribution of world resources, and shared acknowledgement of all people’s contributions to the heritage of culture, knowledge, and science. 

One of NAM’s trailblazers was the government of Yugoslavia and its leader, Josip Broz Tito (1892–1980). Born in Croatia, Tito had been a trade unionist, Red Army soldier, and Communist Party member, fighting against German Nazis and Italian fascists during World War II, before taking the helm of Yugoslavia’s government. After halting its alliance with the Soviets in 1948 and ultimately defying Soviet hegemony to launch its own program of socialist development, Yugoslavia over subsequent decades contributed to the freedom dreams of anticolonial, anti-imperialist governments, national movements, and leftist parties worldwide. Yugoslavia was a founding member of NAM and hosted one of its initial conferences in Belgrade in 1961.

As Yugoslavia and Tito’s aura grew, the country increased its ties and influence in the anticolonial world. A key region that it prioritized was the continent of Africa. Throughout the 1950s to 1970s, Yugoslavia established close relations with several African countries. Via economic packages, military aid, technical support, and cultural and academic exchanges, it helped build factories, power plants, ports, hospitals, and research facilities in numerous African countries. In return, Yugoslavia gained access to African raw materials and new markets to trade its surplus consumer products. Furthermore, through official state visits, Tito and other state officials were able to express support for African independence, self-determination, and African countries’ efforts to carve out national futures not tethered by the neocolonial grip of Europe, the U.S., or any other power. “Millions of ordinary people have entered the stage of history,” Tito proclaimed to Ghana’s parliament. “They will not allow a handful of irresponsible belligerent people to gamble with their destiny.”  

The image of Yugoslav-African solidarity was constructed and circulated via African news editorials and carefully staged photographs of Yugoslav delegation visits to African countries. In these images, ceremonial handshakes, the signing of contracts, exchanges of diplomatic gifts, award ceremonies, parades, receptions, traditional dance performances, and delegate tours of different sites were framed as evidence of the ties linking Yugoslavia to Africa. Yet these proclamations and staged spectacles of “friendship” and “solidarity” could not avoid contradiction. Often at the center of the image were Tito and other state leaders, which reinforced the problematic deification of these political figures and the perception that the actions of a few exceptional “big men,” rather than mass movements, were shaping change and new postwar realities. In addition, some photographs reinforce ideas of African dependency and colonial stereotypes of Africa, depicting a one-way exchange between Yugoslavia and Africa, although not seen here are the visits made by African heads of state, students, artists, and writers to Belgrade. The ambivalent nature of these representations reveals the still-relevant challenges of both framing and enacting solidarity amid uneven power relations, as well as the inconsistencies within claims and representations of unity and international partnership. 

Free. RSVP Here.