Demystifying Postcolonial International History: Revelations from the Algerian Front of the Third World's Cold War



Jeffrey Byrne, University of Britsh Columbia

Date and Time

January 27, 2015 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Encina Hall (2nd floor)

Abstract: Despite growing interest in the phenomenon of Third World internationalism, the post-colonial world’s contribution to modern international history is still greatly under-appreciated. Important South-South dynamics are neglected in order to privilege a North-South framework of analysis, while excessive preoccupation with the discourse of the 1955 Bandung Conference obscures the substantive and changing nature of the Third World project. However, new evidence from countries like Algeria and the former Yugoslavia now make it possible to re-examine “Third Wordlism” as a geopolitical project and diffuse ideology. This paper argues that Third Worldism evolved from a subversive transnational phenomenon into a conservative and state-centric international one. By determining the nature of decolonization—that is, the universalization of the sovereign state model—Third Worldist forces helped to reshape the entire contemporary international system. Moreover, by stoking international tensions for their own advantage (contrary to the public rhetoric of the Non-Alignment Movement), countries like Algeria played an under-appreciated role in prolonging and globalizing the Cold War.

About the Speaker: Jeffrey James Byrne studied at Yale University and the London School of Economics, and is now Assistant Professor of history at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. He writes on the international history of the twentieth century, with a particular interest in Africa, the Middle East, decolonization, and the connections between developing countries. His work has been published in the International Journal of Middle East StudiesDiplomatic History, and numerous essay collections. His first book, Mecca of Revolution: Algeria and the Third World’s Cold War, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2015.


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