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Fighting Words

Fifteen Books that Shaped the Postcolonial World


Dominic Davies, Erica Lombard and Benjamin Mountford

Can a book change the world? If books were integral to the creation of the imperial global order, what role have they played in resisting that order throughout the twentieth century? To what extent have theories and movements of anti-imperial and anticolonial resistance across the planet been shaped by books as they are read across the world?

Fighting Words responds to these questions by examining how the book as a cultural form has fuelled resistance to empire in the long twentieth century. Through fifteen case studies that bring together literary, historical and book historical perspectives, this collection explores the ways in which books have circulated anti-imperial ideas, as they themselves have circulated as objects and commodities within regional, national and transnational networks. What emerges is a complex portrait of the vital and multifaceted role played by the book in both the formation and the form of anticolonial resistance, and the development of the postcolonial world.

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Chapter 11: Culture in Transition: Rajat Neogy’s Transition (1961–1968) and the Decolonization of African Literature (Asha Rogers)


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11 Culture in Transition: Rajat Neogy’s Transition (1961–1968) and the Decolonization of African Literature


Transition, the Ugandan literary magazine edited by Rajat Neogy, sought to create an autonomous East African culture in the aftermath of decolonization. Publishing leading intellectuals and writers from across the continent such as Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ali Mazrui and Es’kia Mphahlele, neither the outgoing imperialists nor Milton Obote’s overbearing nationalist regime were exempt from its challenge. Neogy’s imprisonment for sedition in 1968 consolidated the magazine’s resistant position. However, the case of Transition also raises larger questions about the relationship between politics and print. By bringing into view the liberal institutions that funded and protected such ventures in the decolonizing world, notably the Congress for Cultural Freedom but also Amnesty International, Transition asks important questions about how we conceive of resistance in the long twentieth century.

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