The Bandung legacy and the People’s Republic of China in the perspective of global modernity
Abstract The most important question concerning the 60th anniversary commemoration(s) of the Asian-African Congress of 1955 is what voices will be heard, and which voices will prevail. This may also be the most significant difference between this year’s commemorative gatherings and the event that provides the occasion for them. The delegates from twenty-nine Asian and African nations that met in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955 shared a sense of common experience in recent struggles against colonialism and racism. The hundred plus nations invited to this year’s official commemoration come with quite different experiences in the intervening years since then. More significantly, whereas it was states that spoke in 1955, this year’s commemoration has opened up political space to the voicing of public concerns by groups of activists, and representatives of diverse ecological, social, economic, political and cultural causes that are products of the present, many of them with only a tenuous discursive linkage to the original Conference. It would be silly to expect common ground even of a ritual kind among these constituencies. Extra-state voices add a whole new dimension to the commemoration. Whether they are heard in a substantial sense or simply ignored with verbal platitudes will determine the historical significance and meaning of the Conference. This essay was written before the actual conference in April 2015.
Keywords: Asian-African Conference, Non-Aligned Nations, Third World, Indonesia, India, the People’s Republic of China
Arif Dirlik lives in Eugene, OR, in semi-retirement. He most recently held the the Rajni Kothari Chair in Democracy at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, India (2011) and the Liang Qichao Memorial Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Tsinghua University, Beijing (2010). He will hold a brief appointment as Green Professor at the University of British Columbia in February 2016. His most recent book-length publications include Hougeming shidaide Zhongguo(Postrevolutionary China, tr of Culture and History in Post-Revolutionary China) (2015), Quanqiu xiandaixing zhi chuang: Shehui kexue wenji(Windows on Global Modernity: Social Scientific Essays) (2013), and the edited volumes, Global Capitalism and the Future of Agrarian Society (2012) and Sociology and Anthropology in Twentieth Century China (2012).