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Conference | INVISIHIST Conference

Making and Breaking Global Order in the Twentieth Century

Friday 14 October 2022 - Saturday 15 October 2022
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
Lipsius 148

Across the twentieth century, ideas about the global order have sparked a furious debate amongst scholars seeking to understand its power dynamics, structures, institutions, organisation and systems. The majority of the discussion has been centred around the role of states as critical to shaping the workings of the system of international relations and the horizon of peace and security. There has however been an inherent tendency to uphold conventional turning points such as the two World Wars, the Cold War and the North-South divide.

We aim to go beyond these traditional understandings and rather focus on the institutions, nations, and often forgotten actors who were full participants alongside Great Powers in shaping the norms, systems and practices that make up global order. At the centre of our enquiry are the role of traditionally disenfranchised or marginalised actors of the Global South, including states, nations, transnational groups, regional organisations, trade union representatives, transnational corporations, activists, agitators and a host of other non-state actors.

Projections on Sustainable Development Goals on the 70th Anniversary of the UN (22 Sep 2015 | Cia Pak/ UN Photo # 643590)

Conference Programme

See the full conference programme.

We also seek to probe the ways in which the different levels of global order interacted in organisations, especially the League of Nations and the United Nations and their associated agencies and systems. There has been a surge of recent scholarship dealing with the legacies and functions of these institutions of international order, and we wish to expand the actors, events, and narratives that play featured roles in the history of 20th century international institutional and organisational transformation.

This conference, the first major event of the ERC funded project: ‘Challenging the Liberal World Order from Within, the Invisible History of the United Nations and the Global South,’ will be organised around four main trajectories of enquiry:

  1. Critical histories of international governance that may be attentive to Cold War and the postcolonial framings, but are not necessarily bound by them.

  2. How the UN generated and disseminated knowledge and information on key issues globally as well as the implementation of resolutions and decisions that generated new practices and norms.

  3. To problematize histories of Third World or Global South solidarity and competition.

  4. UN and international organizations as makers and breakers of statehood and enforcers of sovereignty even where this clashed with the assertion of other rights and claims of nationhood.

Conference Programme

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