Author Archives: Frederick Cooper

About Frederick Cooper

Professor of history at New York University and a specialist in the history of Africa, colonization, decolonization, and empire more generally. He is the author of a trilogy of books on labor and society in East Africa and more recently of Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa (Cambridge, 1996); Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present (Cambridge, 2002); and Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (California, 2005). He is also co-author, with Jane Burbank, of Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton, 2010). He is currently writing about citizenship in France and French Africa between 1945 and 1960.

Commentary on the Essay of Joseph Hodge

This post is part of a roundtable discussion on two historiographic articles by Joseph Hodge published in recent issues of Humanity. For more about the roundtable and all currently available posts please see this page. Joseph Hodge offers us a richly detailed analysis of the making of a new academic subfield, anthropological and historical studies of development. Students will be mining his footnotes for years to come, and they will appreciate the intelligent—and sometimes severe—critiques he presents of the literature whose influence he has made Continue reading →

Afterword: Social Rights and Human Rights in the Time of Decolonization

Concluding this collection, Cooper places the question of social and human rights in the context of the acute uncertainty about world politics in the years after World War II. Not least of the questions was the unit in which rights could be claimed: nation-state, empire, humanity as a whole. That issue was particularly open in the years after 1945 because of struggles over colonialism. Could the expanding notion of social rights in postwar England and France be confined to the metropole, especially as colonial powers needed to redefine their basis of legitimacy and as social and political movements in Africa were asserting political voice? Political movements in the colonies were not necessarily focused on independence, but on the right to claim rights—social as well as political—in an imperial polity. The locus of rights, as well as their contents, have remained in question ever since.