Written by Kevin Errasquin, GPI Undergraduate Fellow
On February 24, 2022, the Global Policy Institute hosted Dr. Adom Getachew, recipient of the 2021 Global Policy Institute Book Award, for her book Worldmaking after Empire. Dr. Getachew began her presentation by mentioning how her writing is a product of contemporary crisis in the international order. Dr. Getachew quoted: “What my book is trying to do, is to point out a different set of dilemmas about the international politics, [dilemmas] that emerges when we consider empires and the struggles against [them] in the 20th century”. She explained how imperialism consisted of controlling the labor forces in the markets, along with the resources across the world. This was exercised by way of artificial borders and the exclusion of colonies from participation in international institutions. As a result, imperialism left many nations in the decolonized world with a situation of uncertainty and chaos.
When referring to the international system after decolonization, Dr. Getachew explained that former colonies face various challenges to overcome their past, in addition to joining the international system as sovereign and independent states. Among those challenges, these newly independent nations face issues of international racial hierarchy. This is problematic because it obligates the newly independent nations to compete with the global powers for equality via international forums. Since big and powerful states are the pioneers behind the creation of international institutions, they have more influence in the process of decision-making. As a result, it creates an unequal system where newly independent states might have little to no influence within the international system.
There is another problem newly independent states face in a post-colonial world. The challenge is of nation-building and development. Dr. Getachew explained that nation-building itself entangles with the state’s participation in the international system. Conventionally, a newly independent state will have to choose between nationalism and internationalism. This may lead to more issues that will put to test the capability of a newly independent state to achieve self-determination. Dr. Getachew also pointed out that colonialism and imperialism still play a big role in the current international system, as some states are still trying to achieve self-determination. This is expected after gaining independence, but it is difficult to enforce, as former imperialist states still want to have an influence in the decision-making and international participation of the decolonized states.
Dr. Getachew concluded her presentation by inviting the audience to study the broad topic of decolonization. Besides posing a challenge for newly independent nations, it also affects the rest of the world in different aspects. The migration from the global south, the use of the Euro and the US dollar in certain countries in Africa, and the unequal bilateral relations between the European and the decolonized nations are just some of the issues that colonization poses today. Dr. Adom Getachew has shed light on an issue that impacts the daily lives of the residents of both former colonies and imperialist states. To find out more about our previous and upcoming events, please visit the LMU Global Policy Institute website.
The views represented herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Policy Institute.