Brooks Marmon, managing editor of Postgrads from the Edge, reflects on a workshop co-hosted by CAS and the University’s Global and Transnational History Research Group.
Conference/workshop season is heating up at the University of Edinburgh. April is shaping up to be particularly busy with CAS’ annual conference on Law and Social Order in Africa, followed by a workshop on Social Media in Africa at the end of the month.
February however, was highlighted by a workshop marking the 50th anniversary of the Arusha Declaration, the famed statement of African socialism by the Tanzanian President, Julius Nyerere, an Edinburgh graduate (read about this period of his life in more detail here).
The Tanzanian presence at the University of Edinburgh is significant. In CAS, our lecturers Hazel Gray and Tom Molony have produced a wide body of work on Tanzanian history, economics, and politics. Gray has worked in Tanzania’s Ministry of Finance while Molony has just published a biography on Nyerere’s early years. In History, Emma Hunter has also published widely on Tanzanian political thought and print media. All three chaired panels at the workshop.
Needless to say, this presence was immeasurably bulked up on the 24th of February for The Arusha Declaration @ 50 workshop with specialists on Tanzania from across Europe and East Africa flocking to Edinburgh. The conference consisted of four panels and 17 speakers, with Molony closing the workshop with a special address on ‘Nyerere’s Edinburgh Safaris.’
As a (budding) historian of southern Africa, I was a bit out of my league in terms of the content, but the dynamism of the conference was contagious. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I particularly enjoyed the opening panel, ‘Historical Perspectives’, chaired by Dr. Hunter. The panel opened with an analysis of the Arusha Declaration by George Roberts, an emerging scholar at the University of Warwick (which I was to subsequently learn was strongly influenced by lecturers who had taught at the University of Dar es Salaam law school).
The speakers who followed had all worked in Tanzania in the 1960s or 70s and brought a first-hand perspective to the implementation of the Arusha Declaration. Ralph Ibbott played a key role in helping Nyerere build his vision of ‘Education for Self-Reliance’, Brian Van Arkadie advised the government on economic policies in the late 60s, Father Vic Missiaen (who was perhaps the panellist most critical of Nyerere’s failure to implement ujamaa) arrived in Tanzania in 1968, followed shortly thereafter by the last speaker, Elsbeth Court, who served as a teacher with the Peace Corps.
While the themes of the presentations varied widely, from education and politics to arts, the deep historical perspectives of the panellists ensured a rich and enlightening discussion.
The three panels that followed maintained the momentum. The second panel explored ‘The Impact of the Arusha Declaration’ – primarily through an examination of economic and social development. A trio of PhD students, including CAS’ own Robert Macdonald, who spoke on the contemporary opposition’s embrace of the Arusha Declaration, were joined by Charlottes Cross in a panel on the ‘Arusha Declaration in Contemporary Politics.’ The final panel, ‘The Arusha Declaration Today’, was an all Tanzanian affair featuring Edinburgh’s Albert Mkony with an analysis of social media discourse on the Arusha Declaration and Julius Nyerere.
Molony, clad in an olive safari suit, closed out the workshop with a fascinating account of Nyerere’s Edinburgh years, 1949 – 1952. Nyerere received his MA from Edinburgh several years after undergraduate study at Makerere. In a rather impressive feat, he returned just a decade later as head of independent Tanganyika to receive a honorary degree.
A subsequent reception at the Talbot Rice Gallery formally concluded the workshop.
The Arusha Declaration @ 50 workshop brought together a compelling mix of academics, students, and historic practitioners of ujamaa for a lively and insightful conference. While I don’t think I can imagine the experience of Nyerere’s Edinburgh, I’m glad to have been here for Arusha @ 50.