In Black Star, Crescent Moon (2012), scholar Sohail Daulatzai charts post-1950s Black internationalism as an intersecting history of black Muslims, black radicals, and the Muslim third world. In response, Mohaiemen argued that these encounters did not always lead to progressive politics, especially when state agencies were involved (“Muhammad Ali, We Still Love You: Unsteady Dreams of a ‘Muslim International’”, The New Inquiry, June 2016). In an expansion of this discussion, and leading into his forthcoming film in two chapters for documenta 14, Mohaiemen explores state-led Muslim International projects of the 1970s as a sometime nemesis of the radical emancipatory possibilities of the Third World International within, and after, communism.
Naeem Mohaiemen has been working on The Young Man Was, a series of films and essays exploring the 1970s revolutionary left, since 2006. His protagonists often display symptoms of misrecognition, ending up as “accidental Trojan horses” carrying tragedy to the countries in question (from Japanese hijackers commandeering Dhaka airport in “solidarity,” to the migrant labor networks transformed into unsteady PLO “volunteers”). In spite of the failures of a bygone form of communism, Mohaiemen’s reading of the potential of an international left is still one of hope. Chapters from the project were presented in the survey show Prisoners of Shothik Itihash, curated by Adam Szymzyck at Kunsthalle Basel (2014). Historian Afsan Chowdhury (whose diary inspired The Young Man Was project) referenced Mohaiemen’s project as part of a “second wave of history-writing” about Asia. Mohaiemen is a PhD candidate at Columbia University, New York, and a 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow (film-video).