Future Imperfect? New book!

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March 1, 2017 by Andrew W M Smith

UCL Press has just released the edited volume that I prepared along with Chris Jeppesen, Britain, France and the Decolonization of Africa: Future Imperfect? (London: UCL Press, 2017). It is an open access collection, which means that you can read the book for free and download a PDF to keep. You can find the book on the UCL Press website by clicking HERE or on the cover image below.

britain__france_and_the_decolonization_of_africa_400px

The book built on a conference that we organised at UCL back in 2014. Here’s one of the posters that we produced for the event:

britain-france-africa-poster

That was a fantastic event, and one that produced a lot of rich discussion. One of the big things that came out of it for both Chris and myself was the potential for anti-teleological readings of decolonization. This is something of a live issue in the historiography, although one which has been dominated by discussion of sovereignty. Instead, we thought that our edited volume could do something a little different: looking at anti-teleological readings of decolonization that stretched across social, cultural, and political histories by considering how people imagined the future would pan out.

That question is central to the essays throughout the volume, and underpins its central theme ‘the future imperfect’. How we imagine the future is indicative of many interesting things: our ideology, our beliefs, and an appraisal of the world as it stands. By framing that question at the central of our analysis, we hoped to provide novel insight into the Late Colonial State before the formal transfer of power. This was intended to open up new avenues of discussion and I think that the volume is an original and interesting contribution to the field.

The book is also representative of a personal journey. When Chris and I organised the conference, we were both fairly new to UCL and this was our first big undertaking. Working through all of the issues involved with a conference helped both of our confidence in the work that we do, and I think proved to be an exceptionally positive experience. Creating the edited volume was also a formative task in a personal sense. Both of us were stretched in terms of organisation, creativity, and stamina. What has emerged, though, is a book that we’re both proud of. It’s also poignant for me, as I’m shortly to leave UCL and take up a new post at the University of Chichester. The volume is a neat binder for my trajectory at UCL, and the support from colleagues as we prepared it has been indicative of the broader support and friendship of colleagues throughout my time at UCL.

Looking back over my blog, I discussed some of the ideas that made it into my chapter here, in a post called  ‘Life cycles: the ephemera of research’. I also hinted at the pretty extreme pressure I put myself under to finish the book here, in a post called ‘Doing history: a timeline of my book’s publication’. You can see the strongest evidence of that in the acknowledgements of our edited volume, which finish by thanking my daughter for being born two weeks late!

I’m proud of all the work we put into the volume, so go on: have a read!

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