Naoko Shimazu – Performing Afro-Asia in Post-colonial Diplomacy



Event Date: 15-16 February 2013
Deighton Room,
Trinity College,
Cambridge CB2 1TQ

Translating Diplomatic Culture

Part of the Diplomatic Cultures Research Network (AH/J013900/1)

Professor Naoko Shimazu (Birkbeck) – Performing ‘Afro-Asia’ in Post-colonial Diplomacy

With the demise of the colonial empires in the post-war era, newly established post-colonial states emerged in all corners of Asia and Africa. How did the fact of their emergence as new international actors change the way international diplomacy would be conducted? This paper focuses on the Bandung Conference of 1955, when the twenty-nine newly created Asian and African states gathered to demonstrate the solidarity of ‘Afro-Africa’ in one of the most iconic, and symbolic, moments of twentieth-century international diplomacy. In particular, I seek to understand how ‘Afro-Asia’ was acted out or ‘performed’ by statesmen, such as Sukarno, Nehru, Nasser, and Zhou Enlai. Their roles collectively reveal strongly the notion of ‘diplomatic cosmopolitanism’, as the Bandung leaders operated in nationalist and socialist networks of revolutionaries in the Interwar Period, as actors of ‘revolutionary cosmopolitanism’. Moreover, I argue that the Indonesian organizers had prepared the conference to evoke the theme of ‘freedom’ in a number of symbolic ways. Methodologically, this exploration is an attempt to deconstruct the ‘theatrical’ in diplomacy, in order to suggest ways of understanding the ‘symbolic’ in international diplomacy. This avenue of intellectual enquiry, moreover, reinforces the importance of popular accountability, since politicians as world statesmen ‘perform’ to multiple audiences – to their national audience, as well as to the international audience. Hence, boundaries between ‘the political theatre’ and ‘the diplomatic theatre’ become increasingly blurred in the twentieth century, influenced by technological changes in the way international diplomacy is ‘communicated’.

Naoko Shimazu is Professor of History in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London. Her major publications include Imagining Japan in Postwar East Asia (editor, Routledge, forthcoming 2013), Japanese Society at War: Death, Memory and the Russo-Japanese War (Cambridge University Press, 2009), Nationalisms in Japan (editor, Routledge, 2006), Japan, Race and Equality: Racial Equality Proposal of 1919 (Routledge, 1998), as well as scholarly articles in Political Geography, Russian Review, Journal of Contemporary History, War and Society. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Associate of Modern East Asia Research Centre at Leiden University, Associate of the Pears Institute of Antisemitism (Birkbeck), and a Japan Foundation Fellow. She serves on the editorial board of Japan Forum, Reviews in History, and Modern Asian Studies. She is currently working on her research monograph, Diplomacy as Theatre: Asian and African Performances at the Bandung Conference of 1955.

share this entry: