Delayed Farewell: Imperial Identities in an Iberian Perspective

The proposed study deals with the integration of late Portuguese and Spanish colonialism in Africa (from about 1950 to 1975) into the global historiography of empires. It focuses on the decolonization processes in Angola, Mozambique, Spanish Sahara, Ifni, and Spanish Guinea that to date have found little attention in international comparative research. Access to newly available sources allows scholars to set fresh accents in research on Portuguese-speaking and former Spanish Africa.

International pressure to decolonize in the 1950s prompted both southern European dictatorships to incorporate their colonial possessions as provinces into the motherland. For example, Luis Carrero Blanco, Spain’s minister of the presidency, announced in the early 1960s that the Sahara was just as Spanish as Cuenca. In Portugal, the government decreed that the country understood itself to be a "pluricontinental, multiracial and multiethnic nation".

In their African colonies, the late Portuguese and Spanish colonial states relied on indigenous cooperation partners and had to extend "participation offers" to them. Incentives for cooperation were offers of participation in government functions or access to health care and education. These efforts to win the "hearts and minds" of the population will be illustrated by focusing on Portugal during the colonial wars in Africa (1961 to 1974). At that time, military strategists’ doctrines on anti-subversive warfare explicitly identified women as a key to local societies. So it was no coincidence that early in the 1960s, the Mocidade Portuguesa Feminina increased their activities as an "identity-defining agency" in Angola and Mozambique. Interestingly, the Spanish women’s organization, the Sección Femenina de la Falange Española, took up its work in Ifni, Spanish Sahara, and Spanish Guinea at the same time. Spain and Portugal sought to ensure loyalty and a sense of belonging to the Iberian metropoles through educational programs in the colonies. The advancement and integration of a functionary elite of indigenous women was expected to provide for the continuity of Spanish and Portuguese (cultural) influence. But both women’s organizations underestimated the agency of their local target groups; the alleged offer of integration was sometimes caricatured, used for other new purposes, or even sabotaged.

The project examines the rhetoric of integration and its contradictory political practice as an intertwined history of the Iberian empires and links this to questions of colonial violence and gender. The question of the construction of belonging (identity) serves as an analytical framework for considering gender relations, integration, and violence.

(Last modified April 2015)