Sovereignty in Africa: Instrumental or Illusionary? – University of Copenhagen

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Sovereignty in Africa: Instrumental or Illusionary?

Open lecture with Dr. Moritz Mihatsch , Senior Guest Researcher, Centre of African Studies

Sovereignty has once again become a hot-topic in the African political discourse from Burundi leaving the ICC to South African President Ramaphosa’s promise to build a sovereign wealth fund and the Liberian debate on food sovereignty. However it remains opaque, what sovereignty exactly means in the different cases. The presentation traces the history of sovereignty in Africa, arguing that the conception of sovereignty applied to the African continent is ill-fitting and leads to counter-productive normative pressures. The presentation therefore calls for a rethinking and decolonisation of African sovereignty. To make this argument, the presentation will discuss the emergence of sovereignty as a concept and its application in the colonial context. The paper will then discuss the transformation of sovereignty in the context of the world wars, and how this new sovereignty became central for decolonisation.

Moritz Mihatsch isa  historian of political ideas and identities. He completed his MA at the University of Zurich (2006) and wrote his DPhil dissertation at the University of Oxford (2014) on nationalism and the concept of nation in Sudan in the 1950s and 60s. His recent research focusses on the concept of sovereignty and how sovereignty relates to national and sub-national identities. He has taught at Future University in Egypt (FUE) for one year (2014–15), and the British University in Egypt (BUE) for two years (2015–17).