Adom Getachew (University of Chicago): From Principle to Right: Self-determination in the Age of Decolonization

Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
Corwin Hall, Room 127

Adom Getachew is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Political Science and the College. She holds a joint Ph.D. in Political Science and African-American Studies from Yale University. Her research interests are situated in modern political thought with a focus on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the history of international law, theories of empire and race, black political thought, and post-colonial political theory.

Her current book project, "Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination" (under contract with Princeton) reconstructs the animating questions, debates and institutional visions anti-colonial nationalists of the Black Atlantic pursued during the height of decolonization. Through the political thought of African, African-American and Caribbean figures such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, W.E.B Du Bois, George Padmore, Kwame Nkrumah, Eric Williams, Michael Manley, and Julius Nyerere, "Worldmaking" illustrates that anti-colonial visions of self-determination were project of worldmaking that sought to overcome racial hierarchy and institutionalize autonomy and equality.

Abstract: From early historians and theorists of decolonization such as Rupert Emerson and John Plamenatz to more recent writings by Hedley Bull, Erez Manela and others, the anticolonial mobilization of self-determination is largely understood as an extension and universalization of an existing principle largely identified with the Wilsonian moment. However, this idea that anti-colonial nationalists merely globalized the principle of self-determination to apply to the non-Western world misses a crucial innovation: Between the 1940s and 1960s, self-determination was no longer a principle but became a right. Far from a straightforward development, it was a contingent and contested reinvention of self-determination. This talk traces the emergence of a right to self-determination and its political and theoretical implications in the age of decolonization.