Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Research project

African Activism at the UN

Subproject of the ERC project 'Challenging the Liberal World Order from Within: The Invisible History of the United Nations and the Global South'.

2020 - 2025
Alanna O'Malley
European Research Council European Research Council

‘African Activism at the UN’, investigates the development of self-determination in Africa and the role the United Nations played in promoting this principle between 1957 and 1980. The project starts with the liberation of Ghana in 1957, follows the separatist attempts of the Rwenzururu movement in Uganda that began in the early 1960s, and ends in 1980 as Rhodesia transitioned into Zimbabwe. By establishing critical links between Kwame Nkrumah and actors from Rhodesia and Uganda, my ambition is to provide an Afrocentric analysis of how African activists drew upon Pan-Africanism and Black African Nationalism to be non-compliant with overtly unequal racialised systems.

Pan-African giant Kwame Nkrumah is a key figure, as I delve into his ideological commitment to the unification of Africa under a socialist banner of a ‘United States of Africa’ and his aim to increase Black solidarity and African coordination. The project investigates the influence of early Pan-African sentiments on regional liberation politics, including the Rhodesian struggle. Providing a didactic framing of African’s agency in Western-dominated spaces, such as the UN, an insight will be offered into how Africans, rather than give into limiting systems, surpassed the constraints of Black agency and contributed significantly to the shaping of global affairs as they created a dignified niche for themselves in the international system.

The project contributes to the study of international history through its analysis of Pan-Africanism as a worldview that significantly impacted international order and global politics. My project purports that the UN as a Western-founded organization, despite its commitment to the decolonization of the Global South, both advertently and inadvertently, maintained international liberal order. By analysing the inversions that occur when emancipatory discourses are held in spaces of political asymmetry, the project will bring to the fore the contribution and exercise of (Pan-)African agency across UN bodies, committees, and agendas by highlighting the myriad of ways this agency was both influential at times and suppressed at other times, as a spirited African community formed within the UN realm.

This website uses cookies.  More information.