Walter Rodney

Walter Rodney: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (In-Person)

Instructor: Nara Roberta Silva
Interference Archive
314 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Walter Rodney was, in his own words, a guerrilla intellectual. Knowledge should be used not only in service of the working poor, but also to help build a vast international spectrum of movements for emancipation, from Pan-Africanism to the Black Power movement in the U.S.: “A ‘revolutionary intellectual’ means nothing if there is no point of reference to the struggle.” His groundbreaking How Europe Underdeveloped Africa dismantled the imperialist narrative that sought to explain socioeconomic conditions across the African continent—widespread poverty, high unemployment, low life expectancy—as the result of deficiencies inherent in its geographies and societies. Rather, Rodney showed clearly and powerfully how colonial expropriation indelibly impacted the historical course and structure of African lives and political communities. The articulation of a new horizon for oppressed peoples across the Global South required, he insisted, “a radical break with the international capitalist system” that produced and sustained global inequalities, even after decolonization and independence. How can we, nearly half a century later, bring Rodney’s radical propositions to bear on contemporary discussions of colonialism, imperialism, economic development, and racism, at both the global and the local level?

In this course, we’ll read Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, alongside a selection of his articles, speeches, and lectures, with the goal of understanding the political landscape that shaped both his thinking and his praxis. We will zero in on four fundamental (and interrelated) themes: development and underdevelopment, African history and diaspora, Rodney’s critical engagement with Marxism and revolutionary pedagogy, and strategy and tactics for Africa’s emancipation. What is development, understood beyond strictly economic parameters? What are the challenges that underdevelopment poses to decolonization? What is neocolonialism, and what is the contemporary relevance of such a concept? What role did slavery and the slave trade play in the development of capitalism? How African economies distorted through the intervention of European powers? What are the emotional and psychological effects of colonization? What is the meaning of Black Power in the context of imperialism? What is the relevance of the Black elite in the context of colonization and independence? What can Rodney teach us about the links between race and class? Can we read his work productively alongside dependency theory? What challenges confronted newly independent nation-states? What is radical pedagogy and, moreover, the role of education in the revolutionary struggle? Supplementary readings may draw from the work of Angela Davis, Frantz Fanon, Kwame Nkrumah, CLR James, Eric Williams, Oliver Cromwell Cox, Robin DG Kelley, Cedric Robinson, Celso Furtado, Samir Amin, Charisse Burden-Stelly, Adom Getachew, Paulo Freire, and others.

Course Schedule

Thursday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
November 16 — December 14, 2023
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Thursday, November 23rd.


Registration Closed

Please email us to be placed on the waiting list.

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