The political life of the dead Lumumba: Cold War histories and the Congolese student left

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This article examines Patrice Lumumba's afterlife among Congolese students in the 1960s. Mobilizing oral histories, it also interrogates the stakes of remembering Lumumba at different moments in Congo's postcolonial history. It shows how Lumumba's assassination became a collective and personal landmark in the biographies of a generation of student activists and clearly helped facilitate a turn towards the left in 1961 and in the years that followed. Overlooked by Cold War histories, this political process was nonetheless also a by-product of the internationalization of the Congo crisis and proved central to the historical imagination of a generation of educated Congolese. The dead Lumumba pushed young educated Congolese to revisit the meaning of decolonization. The article argues that the students' extroverted political imagination was an important explanation for Lumumba's posthumous popularity in Congolese universities. Through their affiliation with the figure of Lumumba, young Congolese could expect to receive support and attention from real and imagined allies around the world. The international communion around Lumumba's name was sometimes the result of productive misunderstandings; nonetheless, his legacy played a crucial role in transnational mediation throughout the 1960s and made possible the circulation of new political repertoires among Congolese students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S15-S39
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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