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VIDEO: How the CIA stole African literature and exerted American imperial influence in the 1950s and 60s


Some South African academics, readers and plebs have called me a conspiracy theorist for mentioning that the CIA supported some of the most important authors in Africa. This claim; of course could be misconstrued as an arrogant dismissal of African canon writers by myself; but this happened. In fact, through convoluted funding structures and through their typical cunning, the CIA, infiltrated and influenced academic, literary and cultural organisations, events, publications (especially literary magazines) in the continent. Their goal was simple – to influence thinking and thought in the continent. They wanted to shift the intellectuals’ and authors’ – as cultural producers – away from siding with the Soviets. They wanted to influence Africans – all over the world – and buy their cultural perspectives. Of course, many of the beneficiaries of the CIA support and funding, did not know that they were being funded by the spy organisation.

In this video,  Prof Peter Kalliney, University of Kentucky delineates this very clearly. America thought it could win the Cold War through ideas instead of through arms. Their support of all sorts of intellectual and literary/cultural “diplomacy programs” – such as their support of The Conference for Literature of English Expression, in Makerere University in 1962 – was aimed at this cultural influence that could sway intellectuals from vacillating towards the communist Soviet Union.

Take a listen.

Source: Library of Congress

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