First: thanks to those who replied to my plea for books on African-American history. I’m working through the list now, and more suggestions are always welcome.
Now for a different conundrum. I’ve been working on my dissertation prospectus–a funny process that I should write about someday–and find myself puzzling over a question of vocabulary. Or perhaps categorization. Namely: how do I collectively refer to a group of countries (and their peoples) circa 1958-1978? The list is a bit long, so I’ve left it for the bottom of this post. I’ve come up with a few monikers: Developing; Non-Aligned; Decolonized; Postcolonial; Non-Western; and Third World. But each of them suffers from one (or both) of two problems:
1) The label doesn’t work for all of the countries. Brazil, for instance, could be considered a non-aligned country in 1965, but it’s hardly “decolonized” (Portugal left in 1822). And Somalia may be non-Western, but so was the Soviet Union, and it’s not on the list.
2) The label is offensive. That goes for “developing” (which assumes a particular economic trajectory), “decolonized” (in which independence is something done to a country), and “Third World” (which smacks of “the Other”).
The obvious solution seems to be to drop categorization and appreciate the differences between these countries. Yet in the story I’m telling, these countries are all in the same boat, a boat that is decidedly different from North American, European, East Asian, and Soviet bloc countries. That is to say that in this particular narrative, these Developing-Non-Aligned-De/Post-Colonial-Non-Western-Third-World countries share more in common with each other than they share with that other set of countries.
So I’m facing an academic and ethical problem. I’m going to give myself points for at least grappling with this question and wondering about its implications. But I’d like to go farther than that and actually do the right thing, academically and ethically. Suggestions are most welcome.
Countries in question: Brazil, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Zaire, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Yemen, Somalia