Online Roundtable: Quito Swan’s ‘Pauulu’s Diaspora’

June 28th-July 2nd, 2021

Black Perspectivesthe award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), is collaborating with the Journal of Civil and Human Rights (JCHR) to host a roundtable on Pauulu’s Diaspora: Black Internationalism and Environmental Justice (University Press of Florida, 2020), winner of the 2021 Pauli Murray Book Prize from AAIHS. The roundtable begins on Monday, June 28, 2021 and concludes on Friday, July 2, 2021. It will feature pieces from Nicole Bourbonnais (Graduate Institute Geneva), Adam Ewing (Virginia Commonwealth University), Amanda Joyce Hall (Yale University), and Robbie Shilliam (Johns Hopkins University). At the conclusion of the roundtable, the author Quito J. Swan (University of Massachusetts-Boston) will respond. On Friday at 12noon EST, Dr. Swan will join Keisha N. Blain (University of Pittsburgh) for a Clubhouse discussion about the book.

During the week of the online roundtable, Black Perspectives will publish new blog posts every day at 5:30AM EST. Please follow Black Perspectives (@BlkPerspectives) and AAIHS (@AAIHSon Twitter, like AAIHS on Facebook, or subscribe to our blog for updates. By subscribing to Black Perspectives, each new post will automatically be delivered to your inbox during the week of the roundtable.


About the Author

Quito J. Swan is Director of the William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black Culture and Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. A historian of Black internationalism and the African Diaspora , he is the author of Pauulu’s Diaspora: Black Internationalism and Environmental Justice (University Press of Florida, 2020), Black Power in Bermuda (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) and the forthcoming Pasifika Black: Oceania, Anti-Colonialism and the African World (New York University Press, 2022). Swan has garnered several major awards for his research, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute, Australia’s University of Queensland and, most recently, Pennsylvania State’s Humanities Institute. Follow him on Twitter @QuitoSwan.


About the Book

Pauulu’s Diaspora is a sweeping story of black internationalism across the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Ocean worlds, told through the life and work of twentieth-century environmental activist Pauulu Kamarakafego. Challenging U.S.-centered views of Black Power, Quito Swan offers a radically broader perspective, showing how Kamarakafego helped connect liberation efforts of the African diaspora throughout the Global South.

Born in Bermuda and with formative experiences in Cuba, Kamarakafego was aware at an early age of the effects of colonialism and the international scope of racism and segregation. After pursuing graduate studies in ecological engineering, he traveled to Africa, where he was inspired by the continent’s independence struggles and contributed to various sustainable development movements. Swan explores Kamarakafego’s remarkable fusion of political agitation and scientific expertise and traces his emergence as a central coordinator of major black internationalist conferences. Despite government surveillance, Kamarakafego built a network of black organizers that reached from Kenya to the islands of Oceania and included such figures as C. L. R. James, Queen Mother Audley Moore, Kwame Nkrumah, Sonia Sanchez, Sylvia Hill, Malcolm X, Vanessa Griffen, and Stokely Carmichael.

In a riveting narrative that runs through Caribbean sugarcane fields, Liberian rubber plantations, and Papua New Guinean rainforests, Pauulu’s Diaspora recognizes a global leader who has largely been absent from scholarship. In doing so, it brings to light little-known relationships among Black Power, pan-Africanism, and environmental justice.


About the Participants

Nicole Bourbonnais is an Associate Professor of International History and Politics and Co-Director of the Gender Centre at the Graduate Institute. Her research explores the intersections between the “private” sphere (gender relations, sex, reproduction, and the family), national/international politics, and transnational activism. Her first book, Birth Control in the Decolonizing Caribbean: Reproductive Politics and Practice on Four Islands, 1930-1970 (Cambridge University Press, 2016) traced how birth control campaigns in Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, and Bermuda were shaped by colonialism, nationalism, social activism, and working class women’s efforts to control their reproductive lives.  Her current book project, The Gospel of Family Planning: A Global History uses intermediary actors – fieldworkers, doctors, and nurses from international organizations and local associations – as a vector to connect global and local histories of family planning.  She is also interested in the links between anti-racist and feminist activism in the early twentieth century and the history of maternal and child health. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleBourbonn.


Adam Ewing is an Associate Professor of African American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. His first book, The Age of Garvey: How a Jamaican Activist Created a Mass Movement and Changed Global Black Politics (Princeton University Press, 2014), was awarded the 2015 Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. He is also the co-author (with Ronald J. Stephens) of the edited volume, Global Garveyism (University Press of Florida, 2019). Dr. Ewing is currently working on his second monograph, a global history of pan-Africanism; and Dread History, a collection of essays written by the pan-African activist and scholar, Robert A. Hill.


Amanda Joyce Hall is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Departments of History and African American Studies at Yale University. Her dissertation is an international history of the grassroots movement against South African apartheid during the 1970s and 1980s. She samples the anti-apartheid movements led by students, workers, musicians, exiles, community organizers as they shut down Springbok rugby tours in Aotearoa/New Zealand, developed soundtracks of resistance from the Caribbean, demanded divestment from multi-national corporations in the U.S., and celebrated the repatriation of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa as a triumphant symbol of their enduring efforts to dismantle color lines that were drawn both locally and internationally. Her work examines the complexities of coalition-building, solidarity work, and the multivalent forms of anti-apartheid resistance as extensions of antiracist, socialist, land rights, and women’s liberation struggles. Follow her on Twitter @amandajoycehall.


Robbie Shilliam is Professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University. He researches the political and intellectual complicities of colonialism and race in the global order. His most recent publication was Decolonizing Politics: An Introduction (Polity Press, 2021). He is the co-editor of the Rowman & Littlefield book series, Kilombo: International Relations and Colonial Question. Shilliam was also a co-founder of the Colonial/Postcolonial/Decolonial working group of the British International Studies Association and is a long-standing active member of the Global Development section of the International Studies Association. Over the past six years, Shilliam has co-curated with community intellectuals and elders a series of exhibitions–in Ethiopia, Jamaica and the UK–which have brought to light the histories and significance of the Rastafari movement for contemporary politics. Follow him on Twitter @RobbieShilliam.


Clubhouse Book Discussion: Friday, July 2 at 12pm ET

At 12:00PM Eastern, AAIHS President Keisha N. Blain will host a Clubhouse discussion with Quito J. Swan. Click here to RSVP on Clubhouse. Blain is an award-winning historian of the 20th century United States with broad interests and specializations in African American History, the modern African Diaspora, and Women’s and Gender Studies. She is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh, the president of the African American Intellectual History Society, and a columnist for MSNBC. She is currently a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University and a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study. Blain has published extensively on race, gender, and politics in both national and global perspectives. Her latest books are the #1 New York Times Best Seller Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, edited with Ibram X. Kendi (Penguin Random House/One World, 2021); and Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America (Beacon Press, October 5, 2021). Follow her on Twitter @KeishaBlain.

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Comments on “Online Roundtable: Quito Swan’s ‘Pauulu’s Diaspora’

  • I worked with Paulo briefly in Dar es Salaam when the Secretariat for the 6th Pan African Congress was being set up in late 1973. From there, he moved on to Papua-New Guinea (as it was killed). It will be wonderful to hear what the scholars have to say about him. He was a force of nature, one from whom I learned. —Geri Augusto (at the time, Geri Marsh Stark)

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