Visions of World Order in Pan-Africanism

Prof. Rita Abrahamsen
Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Director of the Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS), University of Ottawa

Date: April 16, 2019, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Venue: Gerhard Mercator Haus, Lotharstraße 57, 47057 Duisburg

At a critical juncture in global politics, Pan-Africanism contains resources for the defence, reinvigoration and reinvention of a more just, equal and rule-bound multilateral world order. At the same time, its nativist reflex and defence of difference carry particular risks in a context where strikingly similar viewpoints are promoted by New Right movements.

In the 31st Käte Hamburger Lecture, Professor Rita Abrahamsen made a case for taking Pan-Africanism seriously within IR debates about world order. Developing a morphological analysis, she argued that Pan-African ideology is a fluid and historically contingent patterned way of thinking about the social and political world. As part of global constellations of ideas, power relations and problematics, it provides strategic guidance for political action in international affairs. Abrahamsen identifies three contending visions of world order within Pan-Africanism: a world of continental unity and transnational solidarity; a world of national sovereignty; and a world of racially defined units. The current world order was not ‘made in the West’, but produced in interaction with Pan-African ideas and values. Understanding the manner in which Pan-Africanism informs and legitimizes diverse political agendas is thus of crucial importance for IR, for Pan-Africanists, and for the future of world order.
Adam Sandor, currently a research fellow at the Centre and a former student of Prof. Abrahamsen, and Prof. Christoph Hartmann, Chair of Political Science at the University of Duisburg-Essen, whose focus lies in International Relations and African Politics, provided the comments on the lecture. A lively discussion followed, during which the audience showed great interest in Abrahamsens 'morphological approach to ideology' and debated the various forms of 'afro-politanism'. Abrahamsen reflected on forms of a possible 'strategic essentialism' (Spivak) and the identitarian potential of yet-marginal positons, in the context of recent populist developments in many parts of the world.