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“The Intellectual as Partisan: Sylvia Pankhurst and the Italian Invasion of Ethiopia”

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Neelam Srivastava


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This essay examines the feminist, communist, and antifascist campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst as a postcolonial intellectual for our times. A forgotten figure in the history of anticolonialism, Pankhurst militated in the Suffragette movement and then the Communist movement, before devoting her political energies to supporting Ethiopia against the Italian invasion led by Mussolini in 1935. Pankhurst’s broadsheet, New Times and Ethiopia News, published articles denouncing the Italian occupation as well as writing by prominent African and Asian anticolonial voices. Through the analysis of Pankhurst, the essay argues for an understanding of the postcolonial intellectual as a partisan who cuts across civilizational divides, bringing together metropolitan and colonial networks of resistance. I draw on Carl Schmitt’s Theory of the Partisan, in which he describes the partisan, exemplified by the political combatant of the wars of decolonization, as the emblematic figure of twentieth-century warfare. I adapt Schmitt’s theory to read Pankhurst’s militancy in favour of Ethiopia in order to argue that the partisan is not only an insurgent fighter, but an individual who takes sides in the inter-connected struggles against colonialism and fascism, thus gesturing to the possibility of a global theory of resistance.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Srivastava N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: In Press

Journal: Postcolonial Studies

Year: 2021

Acceptance date: 29/10/2020

ISSN (print): 1368-8790

ISSN (electronic): 1466-1888

Publisher: Taylor and Francis


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