The Activist as Geographer: Nonviolent Direct Action in Cold War Germany and Postcolonial Ghana, 1957-1960

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This article interprets nonviolent direct action campaigns against nuclear bases and tests as agents of alternative geopolitics in Cold War Germany and postcolonial Ghana. In doing so, it draws on the archives of the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War, a British organisation, to illustrate how the activities and work of international activists entailed a repertoire of geographical skills and understanding. The activists engaged in networking to create confluences of international space, plotted logistics and maps to make practical and symbolic meanings out of the regions of the bases and tests, and through nonviolent direct action attempted to perform these as an alternative geopolitics to those of the Cold War and colonialism. Together, these processes are interpreted as part of a constructivist, spatial politics, where activists sought to shape and reshape international geographies by intervening in the relationship between space, war and peace. The more they progressed, the more the campaigns seemed to embody a separate set of socio-spatial relations by which German and Ghanaian geopolitics could be challenged and navigated. The article thus sheds light on campaign mobilisation as geography and views the spatial politics of nonviolence as a powerful paradigm in the contemporary history of international activism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-46
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Decolonisation
  • Geopolitics
  • Nonviolence
  • Nuclear disarmament
  • The Cold War


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