Call for papers: Legacies of the Tricontinental, 1966-2016: Imperialism, Resistance, Law


Legacies of the Tricontinental, 1966-2016: Imperialism, Resistance, Law

22-24 September 2016
Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal

Deadline for abstracts: 1 May 2016

The conference organisers invite paper proposals for a transdisciplinary conference marking the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Tricontinental Conference. The conference aims to reflect on the Tricontinental’s enduring political, legal and economic importance, while also bringing together academics and activists to reflect on broader issues of imperialism and anti-imperial resistance.

We welcome papers on both the Tricontinental itself and related topics. Topics include, but are not limited to:

  • The history and significance of the Tricontinental
  • Theoretical and historical legacies of the Tricontinental and ‘tricontinentalism’: Third World Marxisms, Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), postcolonialism, global subalternity
  • Anti-imperialist struggle then and now
  • Imperialism and international law
  • Theorists and activists of the Third World: Cabral, Ben Barka, Guevara, Castro, Fanon, et al.
  • The non-aligned movement and the New International Economic Order (NIEO)
  • Black Power and the Third World
  • Race, racism and international relations
  • Feminism and the Third World
  • Theories of imperialism
  • South-South cooperation and solidarity
  • Human Rights, International Criminal Law and imperialism
  • Neoliberalism and imperialism
  • Imperial violence and revolutionary violence
  • Democracy after decolonisation

We seek contributions from scholars and activists with an interest in imperialism and anti-imperialism, regardless of disciplinary affiliation.

Plenary speakers include Professor Richard Drayton, with more speakers to be confirmed soon.

We welcome both paper and panel proposals. Abstracts of up to 250 words should be sent by no later than 1 May 2016. For panel proposals, please include a brief description of the proposed panel as well as contact information and abstracts for all participants.

Conference organisers are in contact with publishers and selected papers will be invited for publication in a special journal issue and/or edited collection.

Further information can be found at the conference website:

Organising committee: Teresa Almeida Cravo (Coimbra), Tor Krever, (LSE/Coimbra), Robert Knox (Liverpool), Christopher Gevers (KwaZulu-Natal), Luis Eslava (Kent), Christine Schwöbel-Patel (Liverpool)

Conference Abstract

The 1966 Solidarity Conference of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America, or Tricontinental Conference as it is better known, remains one of the largest gatherings of anti-imperialists in the world. More than 500 representatives from the national liberation movements, guerrillas and independent governments of some 82 countries gathered in Havana, Cuba to discuss the burning strategic questions confronting the anti-imperialist movement of the day. Amongst the delegates were some of the most important figures in the anti-imperialist movement including Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Salvador Allende and Amílcar Cabral.

Building on the earlier 1955 Bandung Conference and 1964 UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Tricontinental represented the extension, into the Americas, of Afro-Asian solidarity begun at Bandung. As such, the Tricontinental marked a highpoint in the emergence of a non-aligned movement and the construction of a Third World anti-imperialist project. At the same time, the Tricontinental represented a break with those earlier efforts. Whereas Bandung was a relatively modest affair, in which the various political currents in the Third World came together to articulate a minimum programme, the Tricontinental was avowedly more radical, explicitly attempting to align anti-imperialism with a wider challenge to capitalism. In the words of Mehdi Ben Barka, Moroccan socialist leader and organiser of the Conference, the Tricontinental aimed to ‘blend the two great currents of world revolution: that which was born in 1917 with the Russian Revolution, and that which represents the anti-imperialist and national liberation movements of today’. Indeed, the Conference featured leftist guerrillas who were busy fighting against their own Third World governments.

In keeping with this radical orientation, the Conference condemned imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism, declaring its solidarity with the Vietnamese struggle against the United States. The Conference called more widely for solidarity amongst the radical currents in the Third World and debated what role they would take in relation to the United Nations. In so doing, the Conference created much controversy in the developed world, becoming the target of numerous attempts at subversion.

The Tricontinental was a large influence on the Non-Aligned Movement. In fact, its legacy includes a whole host of developments. On the legal front, General Assembly Resolutions such as the Friendly Relations Declaration and the Declaration of the New International Economic Order flowed directly from the Conference. Similarly, the ideas of military solidarity which animated the Conference bore fruit in events such as Cuba’s 1973 intervention in Angola against Portuguese colonialism.

However, despite this importance, the Tricontinental has received very little attention. Scholarship has tended to focus on the relatively modest demands of the Bandung Conference, and neglected the political cleavage represented by the Tricontinental. This has been especially true in international legal scholarship. Thus, whilst the Third World Approaches to International Law movement has paid close attention to the legal arguments of the Third World during the anti-colonial movement, the Tricontinental has not figured heavily in this account. This is representative of a wider erasure of the radical wing of the Third World movement from international legal histories. Yet this means that a key element of the Third World story has been missed. Indeed, the rich heterodox theoretical and political perspectives put forward by the Tricontinental remain lost to us.

The 50th anniversary of the First Tricontinental is an opportunity to reflect on its enduring political, legal and economic importance. We wish to consider both the historical importance of the Conference and its role as a key site for the Third World project, as well as its legacy, both intellectual and political, today.

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