Alumni Postdoc Fellow

Dr Olivia Rutazibwa

Alumni Fellows

Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research
Schifferstr. 44
47059 Duisburg

Tel:  +49 (0)203 379-5230
Fax: +49 (0)203 379-5276
E-mail: rutazibwa@spam


Olivia Rutazibwa joined the Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research as a Postdoc Fellow. She conducted her research in Research Unit 4 “Paradoxes and Perspectives of Democratization” from July 2015 to June 2016.

Research Project at the Centre

Agaciro, Black Power and Autonomous Recovery. A Decolonial Study of Sovereignty and Self-determination

This research project entails a decolonial study of the meanings and possibilities of self- determination in a global context shaped by mainstream understandings of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Contemporary debates on R2P are dominated by and often limited to questions of implementation, building on a hegemonic consensus on sovereignty as a capacity and privilege, rather than a right or a prerequisite for a collective attainment of the ‘good life’. 

By looking at philosophies and enactments of self-determination, autonomy, self-reliance and sovereignty in three post-colonial contexts, the study seeks to re-open the fundamental debate on R2P in its largest sense (beyond military intervention to include the preventive elements of the doctrine). Firstly, through the study of the philosophy and public policies of Agaciro ('self-worth', self-determination) in contemporary post- genocide Rwanda; secondly, through Black Power thinking and actions in the USA of the 60s and 70s, as found e.g. in the works of Stokely Carmichael/ Kwame Ture; and lastly via the elements of autonomous recovery in Somaliland’s peace and state-building process in the final decade of the last century.
Through this triptych approach, the book seeks to tap into silenced sources of knowledge and practice to contribute to a theoretical reconceptualization of sovereignty, autonomy and self-determination in today’s international relations.

The research project is conceived as a path towards a wider research agenda on the idea of ethical retreat as an object of research in the study of global cooperation and international relations. In a context of a shifting understanding of sovereignty  – from a right to a capacity and responsibility – and the right to international interference or intervention in view of development, statebuilding and conflict prevention, ethical retreat as a research agenda can be seen as a critical scholarly engagement with the commonly held ‘T.I.N.A.’- (There Is No Alternative) adagio, central to many debates on intervention. Even though there has been more attention in recent years to the unintended consequences of interventions including international state-building, the debate on our Responsibility to Protect R2P continues to focus mostly on issues of implementation  and capabilities, political will, efficiency, … i.e. doing better and more.

The idea of ethical retreat is firstly an attempt to take the (unintended) consequences seriously as well as the possibility that a considerable share of the problematics are located in external involvement as such, rather than simply caused by international absence or indifference, unpredictability, double standards, or the contents and modalities of external assistance.
Secondly, rather than a simple disengagement with Others’ suffering, the idea of ethical retreat is a commitment to study fundamental alternatives to assistance that do not per definition entail externals’ far reaching interference in the definition and concretisation of the Others’ good life.

This research project contributes to the ethical retreat research agenda by investigating the possibility of a reconceptualization of sovereignty, self-determination and autonomy from three aforementioned postcolonial epistemologies. Only occasionally, in IR, are the experiences and epistemologies from the periphery – in most cases i.e. non-western – taken as a starting-point to contribute to the understanding of the international system as a whole. American scholars like Vitalis (2000) and Henderson (2007) have drawn attention to this phenomenon with regard to racism and African American Studies in IR. Usually when minority issues and IR meet, the focus tends to be on ethnic minorities in the context of conflict and peace studies. More recently, there has also been some work on whether and how minorities in Western countries influence foreign policy decision-making. Another meeting-place is when we study migration and border management, to collectively regulate, control and manage those trying to enter Western countries for a variety of reasons. Specific branches of IR studies, like post-development and post-colonial approaches do take into account issues of racism and (power) inequality in describing and analysing the effects of international relations on the receiving minorities.
This project explores in what ways we can start to address this imbalance by using the Rwandan, African American and Somaliland experience to contemplate alternatives to existing hegemonic thinking on ethical foreign policy, i.c. R2P.

Research Interests

  • International Relations
  • R2P, (Humanitarian) Interventions, Development, Democratisation
  • (Radical) Democracy, Sovereignty and Self-determination
  • Post- & Decolonial Epistemology
  • sub-Saharan Africa (Somaliland, Rwanda, Sahel, Horn of Africa, Kenya, South Africa)
  • Black Power, Pan-Africanism
  • EU Foreign Policy

Current Projects

  • Routlegde Handbook of Postcolonial Politics
  • Western (Epistemological) Presences in the Global South
  • Ethical Retreat
  • Decolonising IR
  • Global Social Theory


Since 09/2013 University of Portsmouth, UK
School of Languages and Area Studies
Lecturer in International Development and European Studies
08/2010-09/2013 Wereldmediahuis - MO* Magazine
Africa Desk
Editor, Journalist
02/2008-09/2010 Ghent University, Belgium
Center for EU Studies
Research Assistant
03/2006-02/2008 City and Province of Antwerp, Belgium
Peace Centre / Europe Direct
Project Manager
11/2005-11/2005 O3 Productions, Dubai
04/2005-06/2005 Stanford University, USA
Overseas Programme, Florence, Italy
10/2003-02/2004 European Commission
Relex/ B1 Human Rights and Democratisation
04/2003-05/2003 European Union Institute for Security Studies, Paris
Visiting Fellow


Rutazibwa, Olivia (forthcoming 2015): On Ethical Retreat. Lessons from Somaliland, Africa Focus.

Rutazibwa, Olivia (2014): Studying Agaciro: Moving Beyond Wilsonian Interventionist Knowledge Production on Rwanda, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 8 (4): 291–302.

Rutazibwa, Olivia (2014): Back to Basics: Decolonizing Democracy in Africa, Europe World Online (Routledge Handbook of Africa South of the Sahara 2015), London: Routledge.

Rutazibwa, Olivia (2014): What if We took Autonomous Recovery Seriously? A Democratic Critique to Contemporary Western Ethical Foreign Policy, Ethical Perspectives 20 (1): 81–108.

Rutazibwa, Olivia (2010): Book Review of David B. MacDonald, Robert G. Patman, and Betty Mason-Paker (eds.), The Ethics of Foreign Policy. Dominik Zaum, The Sovereignty Paradox, The Norms and Politics of International Statebuilding, David Chandler and Volker Heins (eds.), Rethinking Ethical Foreign Policy, Pitfalls, Possibilities and Paradoxes, Millennium - Journal of International Studies 39 (1): 209–13.

Rutazibwa, Olivia (2010): The Problematics of the EU's Ethical (self)image in Africa. The EU as an 'Ethical Intervener' and the 2007 Joint Africa-EU Strategy, Journal of Contemporary European Studies 18 (2): 209–28.

Rutazibwa, Olivia (2010): Interculturele ID'n als Samenlevingsproject <Intercultural ID's as a Project of Society>, in Lleshi, Bleri / Van den Bossche, Marc (eds.): Identiteit en Interculturaliteit; Identiteitsconstructie bij jongeren in Brussel, Brussel: VUB Press.

Rutazibwa, Olivia (2009): L'Unione Europea nell'Africa subsahariana: un intervento umanitario? Autodeterminazione limitata e fallimento umanitario <The European Union in Sub-Saharan Africa: a humanitarian intervention? Limited self-determination and humanitarian failure>, in Calloni, M. (ed.): Umanizzare L'umanitarismo. Limiti e potenzialità della comunità internazionale, Turin: UTET.

Rutazibwa, Olivia (2009): Iedereen Conservatief! Beschavingspluralisme in binnen buitenland <Everyone conservative! Civilizing pluralism at home and abroad>, in Arnaut, K. et al. (eds.): Een Leeuw in een Kooi, De Grenzen van het Multiculturele Vlaanderen, Antwerpen: Meulenhoff Manteau.

Rutazibwa, Olivia (2006): From Consitionality to Operation Artemis: Humanitarian Interventions in Sub-Sahara Africa and Local Agency, Studia Diplomatica 59 (2): 97–121.

TEDxFlanders Talk (24/09/2011): Decolonizing the Western Minds

Teaching Responsibilities

  • Unit Coordinator, University of Portsmouth: EU in a Global Context; The aid business: policy and issues
  • Lecturer, University of Portsmouth: Nation, Language and Identity; Introducing to the Developing World; EU in the World; Developing Research Skills; Studying at University

Expertise and Consulting Work

  • Journalism, Editorials, Radio and TV (Africa desk; diversity and discrimination in Europe and the USA)

Seminars and Conferences

  • Key note 'Post-Development as a Paradigm', DEVESTU Workshop, Helsinki, 06/2015
  • 'Non-Western Subjecthood Roundtable', Participant, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, 05/2015
  • Panel convener, round table participant, discussant and paper presenter, 56th ISA Annual Convention, New Orleans, 02/2015
  • Paper presenter, 'Emergence, Reproduction and Hegemonization of and by Human Rights Regimes', German-Southeast Asia CPG, Bangkok, 12/2014
  • Paper presenter, BISA Conference, Dublin, 06/2014
  • Paper presenter, Colonia/ Postcolonial/ Decolonial Working Group BISA Inaugural Workshop, Queen Mary University, London, 06/2014
  • Paper presenter, 'Nations and Stereotypes, 25 years later', International Cultural Center, Krakow, 06/2014
  • Workshop convener/ Paper presenter, 2nd EISA Workshop in International Studies, Gediz University, Izmir, 05/2014
  • Paper presenter, Roundtable, World Conference of Human Security, Istanbul, 10/2013
  • 'What is Africa to me now? The continent and its literary diasporas', University of Liege, Liege, 03/2013
  • 'Global Communities - Transnational and Transdisciplinary Exchanges', Linnaeus University, Växjö, 10/2012
  • Panel convener, 53rd ISA Annual Convention, San Diego, 04/2012
  • Co-organizer, Panel convener, 'Decolonizing the Social Sciences', Frankfurt Research Center for Postcolonial Studies, Frankfurt University, Germany, 06/2011
  • IPSA-ECPR 'What happened to North-South Relations?', University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, 02/2011
  • 51th ISA Annual Convention, New Orleans, 02/2010
  • Workshop: 'Ethics, Moral Responsibility and Politics of Democracy Promotion: Political Choices for International Actors', University of Sheffield, Sheffield, 01/2010
  • 'Democratisation in Africa: Retrospective and Future Prospects', Leeds University, Leeds, 12/2009
  • 'The Future of Statebuilding: Ethics, Power and Responsibility in International Relations', Westminster University, London, 10/2009
  • EUSA 11th Biennal Conference, LA, 04/2009
  • 'Contesting Europe', York University, Toronto, 03/2009
  • ECPR 4th Pan European Conference 2008, Riga, 09/2008
  • Politicologenetmaal 2008, University of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, 05/2008
  • 'Guerre e Cosmopolitismo e contesti locali', Universita degle studi di Milano, Bicocca, 11/2005


  • European Union Studies Association (EUSA)
  • International Studies Association (ISA)
  • European International Studies Association (EISA)
  • European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR)


  • Interational Mobility Research Grant for Fieldwork Addis Ababa, Somaliland, Nairobi, Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Research Foundation Flanders, Belgium), 2011
  • Emancipation Prize VOEM, Association for the Development and Emancipation of Muslims, Belgium, 2007
  • Visiting Fellow Scholarship, European Union Institute for Security Studies, 2004
  • Internship Scholarship, European Commission, 2003-2004
  • Mobility Research Grant, Arabic language course, Yemen, European University Institute, 2002
  • Doctoral Research Scholarship, European University Institute/ Belgian Government, 2001-2004
  • Erasmus Scholarship for Students, Universita degli studi di Firenze, 1999-2000

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