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Research project

Non-alignment and race in world history, literature and art

Project overview

This international project aims to take a fresh look at the cold-war Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and how it may be related to global discourses around race. Project participants are particularly interested in the role socialist Yugoslavia played in the movement by beginning to forge a political and cultural blueprint for a theory and practice of European whiteness that was normatively non-racist and non-imperial.

Between the 1960s and the 1990s, non-alignment was the official expression of Yugoslavia’s foreign policy. Pragmatic and financially oriented, it was marked by a Marxist utopianism and a political confidence generated by Tito’s military victory over fascism in south-central Europe. The armed struggle for political freedom came to occupy a central place in the Yugoslav political imaginary, as it did in much of the ‘Third World’. Non-alignment insisted on all nations’ rights to political self-assertion: photographs from the era of decolonisation show a smiling Tito (often on the state ship Galeb – Seagull – currently part of the holdings of the City of Rijeka Museum in Croatia) with friendly black and brown (though mostly male) politicians from the global South. As Asian and African students entered Yugoslav universities, non-aligned solidarity was cast as the international version of the national policy of ‘brotherhood and unity’ in multi-ethnic federal Yugoslavia.

The project is both interdisciplinary and comparative. It involves a partnership between academics from the University of Southampton, The University of Zagreb (Croatia), and the City Museum of Rijeka (Croatia). It aims to look at NAM as both a top-down political initiative and an emergent set of material practices and socio-cultural imaginaries whose residual existence is still in evidence today. The purpose of this research is to highlight emancipatory areas of past race-related practice, and to encourage their revival and elaboration in view of the exigencies of the current historical moment.

The project’s core academic participants are Dr Ranka Primorac (English, Southampton) Dr Ranka Primorac | English | University of Southampton (PI), Prof. Tvrtko Jakovina (History, Zagreb), Dr Priti Mishra (History, Southampton), Prof. Stephen Morton (English, Southampton), Dr Chris Prior (History, Southampton, and Dr Marina Protrka-Stimec (Croatian Studies, Zagreb) . We are currently organising a two-day symposium titled Non-Alignment on the Move, due to take place in late June 2022 at the City Museum of Rijeka in Croatia.


Lead researcher

Doctor Ranka Primorac

Associate Prof of African Literature

Research interests

  • African literatures and cultures and World Literature
  • The novel: histories and theories

Connect with Ranka

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

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