Portuguese Women and African Liberation Movements/ Liberation Movements in Angola and Mozambique: anticolonialism and identitary ruptures declined in the feminine

March 1, 2011 to August 31, 2014
42 months

The key events in African and Asian history after the Second World War are the big political and social upheavals brought about by the genesis of the liberation movements and their sometimes decades-long struggle for freedom and independence. Their recent history unfurls against a backdrop and a legacy of struggle: struggle against European colonialism and the colonizing nations, struggle for independence and for the new nation, struggle against neocolonialism, struggle for education, health and development. In Portuguese former colonial Africa, independence movements began to organize in the late 50’s: in Angola, UPA/FNLA emerged in 1954, MPLA during the period 1956-1961, and UNITA in 1966; in Mozambique, FRELIMO became organized as a movement in 1962. The intransigence of the dictatorial Portuguese regime of the time, led to a long liberation war in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau from 1961 to 1974. The memory of this conflict as held by contemporary Portuguese society draws on two particularly meaningful historical events: the coup d´etat of 25 April 1974 and the ensuing decolonization process. In the former colonies, the memory of this conflict draws instead on independence and the following socialist revolutions. When thinking about women and the African liberation movements, liberation wars and revolutions in Africa we think about African women and currently a small but growing bibliography is concerned with the subject. However, this proposal addresses a different subject – the participation of Portuguese women in the liberation movements and liberation wars in Angola and Mozambique and during revolution. We will search for the Portuguese women who, in close relationship with elements of the liberation movements of Angola and Mozambique, integrated the anticolonial struggles, evaluating their role in the liberation movements and in the societies of the independent nations as well as the transformations in their personal and national identities. It is a very singular participation of women, which raises a number of issues mainly connected with personal and national identities and their representations, memories, political action and individual and collective subjectivities. If on one hand some of these women are well known, e.g. Eugénia Neto, Agostinho Neto’s wife (2008), or Ruth Lara, Lúcio Lara’s wife, on the other, many of them remain anonymous, though in possession of a personal and political experience which deserves to be registered. Which were the political, personal or social motivations that led these women to go through a serious identity conflict? Were they involved with opposition movements in Portugal? What was the political contribution of their actions to the birth of Angola and Mozambique as independent nations and to the glorious and the tragic events of their recent history? Did they maintain connections with the women’s wings of the liberation movements? How did the liberation leaders interact with those women and how do they interpret their role today in the nation’s path to independence? What place do these women occupy in the collective memory of the new African countries? The aim of this project is to promote the critical analysis of their participation on the historical process of struggle for independence and revolution through recover their life stories and those of other liberation actors, in the light of theoretical, historical and cultural thought. In a world where most discourses arise from male voices – consider the number of testimonies by African nationalists that have recently come to light – women´s discourse becomes one of the critical locations where it is possible to work out alternative perspectives and reasonings for the analysis of complex historical processes, armed conflicts and the life of nations and its peoples as citizens and members of an imagined community. Thus the collection and analysis of their testimonies here proposed, crossed with the perspectives of other national actors and public narratives, will lead to a unique archive that will fill page in the history of the liberation movements and its connections with the recent history of Angola, Mozambique and Portugal. A significant part of the research carried out by the proposing team has prioritized theoretical reflexion and a close reading of the feminine, through the uncovering of its silenced discourses (Ribeiro, 2007), of its critical and artistic word (Ribeiro, 2007), of its written and poetic word (2002, 2007a, 2007b) or through the critical reading of its spoken word. On the other hand, the historians in the team hold a significant work about the liberation wars and the birth of the new nations, and about the significance of the literary discourse in those processes (Coelho, 1989; Tavares, 1999). This proposal meets the scientific concerns of the researchers but will also fulfil the knowledge gap in what concerns Portuguese women’s participation in the African liberation movements.

portuguese women, liberation movements, life stories, Africa
Funding Entity
Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology