Local to Global: Human Rights and Anti-colonialism in Africa's UN Trust Territories
My project probes the relationship between universal human rights (as they were articulated through the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and UN-affiliated NGOs) and the politics of Africa’s decolonisation. It explores the ways in which African anti-colonialists in UN Trust Territories appropriated human rights discourses, used them to connect their liberation struggles with transregional trends beyond their territories’ borders and metropolitan centers, and relied on human rights activists, anti-imperialists, and lawyers based in the United States, Great Britain and France to advocate for their political freedoms. I will also continue to research about how Trust Territory populations used human rights ideals to connect nationalist movements with international political trends.
The conventional histories of decolonization, even those studies that explore African nationalists’ appeals to the UN in Trust Territories, tend to focus on confrontations and negotiations between a given metropolitan power and its colonial territories. This metropole-colony paradigm continues to shape our understanding of decolonization and has overshadowed the dynamic transregional linkages formed in the era of Africa’s decolonization. But my research joins a growing body of work that places greater emphasis on the connections African nationalists made beyond colonial boundaries and outside their metropolitan centers. Despite these new initiatives, Africans’ engagement with global political trends during Africa’s transition to independence has yet to be viewed through the lens of the human rights question. This is precisely the lens I adopt in this project that supersedes regional and territorial boundaries to allow new comparisons.
Meredith Terretta is a Visiting Fellow at CRASSH, Lent 2012.
Dr Meredith Terretta is Assistant Professor at the Department of History at the University of Ottawa and specializes in themes of African nationalisms, decolonization, post-colonialism, and critical human rights history. She earned her PhD in African history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004. Her research has been supported in the last year by the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Her published articles include We Had Been Fooled into Thinking that the UN Watches over the Entire World. Human Rights, UN Trust Territories and Africa’s Decolonization, Human Rights Quarterly, forthcoming May 2012 and Cameroonian Nationalists Go Global: From the Forest Maquis to a Pan-African Accra, Journal of African History, 51.2 (2010): 189-212. She has recently completed a manuscript entitled Nation of Outlaws, State of Violence: Nationalism, Grassfields Tradition, and State-Building in Cameroon.