1 Jul 2024 09:30 - 16:00 S2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP


An event by the Catalysts for Decolonisation Research Lab.



We are excited to announce the launch of a new research lab – Catalysts for Decolonisation – funded by Cambridge’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CRASSH). The lab is co-led between Ali Meghji and Simina Dragos, and is composed of a multidisciplinary team at Cambridge.

In 1945, one third of the world’s population lived under colonial rule – the UN now predicts only two million people live under such circumstances. While this sizeable shift obviously transformed the global polity, the mass decolonisation of the 20th century has not been properly recognised as a key driving force of 20th-century history. Our lab, Catalysts for Decolonisation will address this erasure.

The aim of our lab is to legitimate anticolonial histories as a central driving force of 20thcentury history. Importantly, we will demonstrate how decolonization was not just a matter of African, Asian, or Caribbean history, but in virtue of colonial links, a central process in European history too. Our lab will document the history of anticolonial events organised within the geographical confines of Europe throughout the 20th century–such as the Pan-African congresses, the Universal Race Congresses, and the League Against Imperialism meetings. Our innovation will involve tracing the global grammar of decolonisation: while concepts like self-determination, sovereignty, unionisation, and demilitarisation are part of our mainstream political lexicon, the lab will highlight their alternative genealogies in 20th-century anticolonial congresses. In doing so, we will show how concepts which are integral to the current international order thus have their origins not in European liberal philosophy, but in radical anticolonial struggles.

This event is being held to publicly launch the research lab. In this event, we will discuss the aims and scope of the lab, as well as having open-ended panel discussions with invited leading intellectual figures in the study of empire. People of all career stages are encouraged to attend the event. Further details of the day’s schedule will follow in due course.


The Crisis (1910) Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt, 1868-1963
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Public Domain via Flickr

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