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The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination: A Conversation with Adom Getachew

When: Monday, July 27, 2020
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM CT

Where: Online
Webcast Link

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free and open to everyone!

Contact: Danny Postel  


Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings, Multicultural & Diversity, Global & Civic Engagement


Please join Northwestern University's Center for International & Area Studies and the Evanston Public Library for this conversation with Adom Getachew about her book Worldmaking After Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination.

About the speaker

Adom Getachew is Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago. Her work focuses on the intellectual and political histories of Africa and the Caribbean. She is on the faculty board of the Pozen Center for Human Rights, a fellow at the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (3CT), and a faculty affiliate at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture. She holds a joint PhD in Political Science and African-American Studies from Yale University. She is the author of Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination (Princeton University Press), named Best Book by the Theory Section of the International Studies Association.

About the book

Decolonization revolutionized the international order during the 20th century. Yet standard histories that present the end of colonialism as an inevitable transition from a world of empires to one of nations—a world in which self-determination was synonymous with nation-building—obscure just how radical this change was. Drawing on the political thought of anticolonial intellectuals and statesmen such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, W.E.B Du Bois, George Padmore, Kwame Nkrumah, Eric Williams, Michael Manley, and Julius Nyerere, this important new account of decolonization reveals the full extent of their unprecedented ambition to remake not only nations but the world.

Adom Getachew shows that African, African American, and Caribbean anticolonial nationalists were not solely or even primarily nation-builders. Responding to the experience of racialized sovereign inequality, dramatized by interwar Ethiopia and Liberia, Black Atlantic thinkers and politicians challenged international racial hierarchy and articulated alternative visions of worldmaking. Seeking to create an egalitarian postimperial world, they attempted to transcend legal, political, and economic hierarchies by securing a right to self-determination within the newly founded United Nations, constituting regional federations in Africa and the Caribbean, and creating the New International Economic Order.

Using archival sources from Barbados, Trinidad, Ghana, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, Worldmaking after Empire recasts the history of decolonization, reconsiders the failure of anticolonial nationalism, and offers a new perspective on debates about today’s international order.

“Essential reading, this masterful book speaks beautifully to our own contemporary debates over globalization, inequality, and international politics, and serves as a powerful reminder of the paths not taken.” —Aziz Rana, Cornell University

“In this profound and elegant book, Adom Getachew challenges the conventional narrative of anticolonial self-determination, showing that, in its best hands, decolonization was also an effort to critique and reimagine the moral-political languages of international order in the hope of transforming postimperial possibilities.” —David Scott, Columbia University

Danny Postel, Assistant Director of the Center for International & Area Studies, will interview Professor Getachew about the book, followed by audience Q & A.

Zoom link:

Meeting ID: 983 8388 8749

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This event is free and open to everyone.

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