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Adom Getachew

The Limits of Sovereignty as Responsibility

Thursday, May 11, 2017, 5:00pm

Franke Institute for the Humanities

In recent years, “the responsibility to protect” has emerged as an international norm in response to debates about humanitarian intervention. Advocates of R2P as it has come to be known argue that its redefinition of sovereignty as a state’s responsibility to protect the welfare of its citizens and to meet its international obligations is both unprecedented and more compatible with a “post-Westphalian” international order. This Theorizing the Present lecture argues that the redefinition of sovereignty as responsibility dangerously reduces sovereignty to a functional role and casts the relationship between a state and its citizens in a paternalistic form. The functionalism and paternalism of sovereignty as responsibility renders it conditional and reproduce structures of international hierarchy. In response to these problems, Getachew calls for a return to and rethinking of sovereignty as autonomy.

Adom Getachew is Neubauer Assistant Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago. Her research interests are situated in the history of political thought, with a focus on international law, theories of empire and race, black political thought and post-colonial political theory. Her current book project, Worldmaking After Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination, reconstructs an account of self-determination offered in the political thought of Black Atlantic anticolonial nationalists during the height of decolonization in the twentieth century. Although self-determination is often associated with claims of national independence and the creation of nation-states, the African, African-American and Caribbean intellectuals and statesmen at the center of this study reinvented self-determination as a project of worldmaking in which they reconceived international political and economic relations. Adom holds a joint PhD in Political Science and African-American Studies from Yale University and BA in Politics and African-American Studies from the University of Virginia.