Adelante! Military imaginaries, the Cold War and southern Africa’s liberation armies

Alexander, Jocelyn and McGregor, JoAnn (2020) Adelante! Military imaginaries, the Cold War and southern Africa’s liberation armies. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 62 (3). pp. 619-650. ISSN 0010-4175

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Studies of southern Africa’s liberation movements have turned attention to the great importance of their transnational lives, but they have rarely focused on the effects of military training provided by Cold War-era allies in sites across the globe. This is a significant omission in the history of these movements: training turns civilians into soldiers and creates armies with not only military but also social and political effects, as scholarship on conventional militaries has long emphasized. Liberation movement armies differ from conventional armies, however. They were not subordinated to a single state, instead receiving training under the flexible rubric of international solidarity in a host of foreign sites and in interaction with a great variety of military traditions. We argue that the training provided in this context produced multiple ‘military imaginaries’ within liberation movement armies, at once creating deep tensions and enabling innovation. The article is based on oral histories of Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) veterans who were trained by Cuban and Soviet instructors in Angola in the late 1970s. These soldiers emerged from the Angolan camps with a military imaginary they summed up in the Cuban exhortation ‘Adelante!’ (Forward!). Forty years later, they stressed how different their training had made them from other ZIPRA cadres, in terms of their military strategy, mastery of advanced Soviet weaponry and aggressive disposition, as well as their ‘revolutionary’ performance of politics and masculinity in modes of address, salute, and drill. Such military imaginaries powerfully shaped the southern African battlefield. They also offer novel insight into the distinctive institutions, identities and memories forged through Cold War-era military exchanges.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Geography
Depositing User: Sharon Krummel
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2020 08:20
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2020 11:25

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