Research

Postcolonial Global Justice (book manuscript)


Decolonization as a historical event is over. As a political project, however, it is far from accomplished. Not only do we live in a world marked by many unaddressed legacies of colonial oppression, but global politics continue to feature hierarchies that resemble colonial relations. While many formerly colonized peoples are now members of independent nation-states, there have been persistent charges of global political domination, economic exploitation, and cultural imperialism against global actors old and new. The sun may have set on the British Empire, but not on empire itself.

Drawing on the political thought of Third World anticolonial thinkers, this book investigates how structures of colonial injustice continue to manifest in global politics, and what principles of global justice they call for. While there is a longstanding tendency to read anticolonial thinkers as nationalists whose main concern was defending sovereignty for the nation-state, and/or as forerunners of postcolonial critique who eschewed talk of moral ideals, I shift our focus to a second strand of anticolonialism by engaging closely with key writings of Amílcar Cabral, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Kwame Nkrumah. I argue that an important set of themes within anticolonial thought can be theorized as a critique of relations of inequality, and decolonization understood as the construction of egalitarian global and domestic relations. This second strand of anticolonialism, which grounds what I call the egalitarian face of decolonization, pushes us to rethink decolonization as a project of global integration on terms of equality, and has radical implications for thinking about global justice today.

The rest of the book investigates these implications by exploring persistent hierarchies in three different aspects of contemporary global politics and the distinctive reforms each calls for. First, engaging with Nkrumah’s work on neocolonialism, I take up the question of economic decolonization by focusing on international investment. I argue that global economic arrangements such as the international investment regime are neocolonial insofar as they undermine citizens’ efforts in building (global and domestic) social equality—in other words, their collective capacity to realize decolonization as egalitarian revolution. Second, I turn to the question of cultural decolonization by focusing on global cultural production and exchange. Engaging with Aimé Césaire and Amílcar Cabral’s critiques of cultural imperialism, I argue that decolonizing cultural globalization can be understood as overcoming a global racial hierarchy inherited from colonial discourses of civilization. Finally, engaging with Nehru’s writings and speeches on democratic global governance, I take up the question of political decolonization by focusing on undemocratic decision-making within institutions that govern global trade. I argue that decolonizing global governance must begin with the political empowerment of marginalized actors—including states and underrepresented groups—to participate more equally in global rule- and policymaking. The result is a view of global justice that places persistent hierarchy at the center of a critical diagnosis of contemporary global politics, and which proposes social equality as a value that underlies a just postcolonial world order.


On The International Investment Regime: A Critique From Equality(Politics, Philosophy & Economics, May 2021; early online view)

The international investment regime has come under increasing scrutiny, with several developing countries withdrawing from bilateral investment treaties in recent years. A central worry raised by critics is that investment treaties undermine national self-determination. Proposed reforms to the regime have focused on rebalancing the distribution of power between states and investors to restore “enlarged regulatory space” for the former. Contra this critique from national self-determination, in this paper I argue that infringements on national self- determination cannot alone explain why the investment regime is morally problematic. Instead, on my egalitarian view, the regime is objectionable because it empowers a class of agents, whose interests are reliably opposed to egalitarian economic policy, to constrain national self-determination. In effect, the investment regime contributes to entrenching inequality between and within states, and is unjust for that reason. The moral and practical upshot is that reforms to the regime ought to empower disadvantaged groups to exert disproportionate leverage over the terms and practice of international investment, and to appeal to global institutions to do so. In other words, our moral assessment of a given global institution or practice should not depend on whether it constrains national self-determination, but on who it empowers to do so.