Symposium: “Against Self-Determination”

A newspaper print showing men gathered around a table at the Berlin Conference of 1884 to 1885. Several appear to be discussing a large map of Africa.

Berlin Conference, 1884–85, from Allgemeine Illustrierte Zeitung.

This symposium brings together four scholars to discuss Joseph Massad’s important essay “Against Self-Determination,” from the Summer 2018 issue of Humanity. It also includes a response from Massad. In the essay, based on his keynote address at the 2015 “Palestine and Self-Determination beyond National Frames” Symposium, Massad challenges the notion that self-determination is an anti-colonial ideal. He instead demonstrates that the opposite is the case: imperial powers used the concept of self-determination to bolster their settler colonial claims (equating the right of conquest with the right of self-determination) and to deny and limit anticolonial nationalism.

Content

For “Against Self-Determination”

This post is part of a symposium on Joseph Massad’s essay “Against Self-Determination.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Self-determination has been impressively well studied by international jurists, political philosophers, and, more latterly, as a renascent source of inquiry for historians.[1] Joseph Massad’s work contributes to what is a daunting field, and also, interacts with the more austere scholarly terrain on the subversive functioning of the discourse.[2] It also, more obliquely, confirms the salience of the recent pursuit of more globally oriented Read More »

The Continued (if Limited) Emancipatory Potential of Self-Determination

This post is part of a symposium on Joseph Massad’s essay “Against Self-Determination.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Joseph Massad’s article “Against Self-Determination” offers a passionate, even polemical critique of what he calls the Wilsonian vision of self-determination. This is not the Wilsonian vision as laid out by Erez Manela, however, but rather a legitimizing ideology for the “right of conquest” of settler-colonial nations and peoples, as against the more emancipatory vision of Lenin and like-minded anticolonial nationalists. “Settler-colonists would only Read More »

Indigenous Self-Determination: A Response to Massad

This post is part of a symposium on Joseph Massad’s essay “Against Self-Determination.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. In his essay, Massad argues that the dominant form of self-determination has actually been used to reject various nations’ claims to self-determination. States only became open to the recognition of the right of self-determination, Massad claims, when such recognition would not include independence. Massad draws analogies between the Palestinian case and the cases of indigenous peoples around the world and discusses how colonisers Read More »

Decolonial Self-Determination and ‘No-State Solutions’

This post is part of a symposium on Joseph Massad’s essay “Against Self-Determination.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. In his trenchant essay, “Against Self-Determination,” Joseph Massad deftly argues that colonizing states crafted the dominant form of self-determination to limit the claims of anticolonial nationalism and enhance the claims of colonialism. He further zones in on the ways in which these structural limitations have served settler colonial states in ways that constrain indigenous peoples’ claims and access to their traditional territories—lands that Read More »

Response

This post is part of a symposium on Joseph Massad’s essay “Against Self-Determination.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. I am most grateful for these four serious engagements with my essay. I had already learned much from the scholarship of all four respondents when I wrote my essay, which cites their important work. The essay, which is a short version of a much larger chapter that constitutes one third of my current book project, sought to provide a genealogy of the political Read More »

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