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Universal Suffrage as Decolonization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 January 2021

KEVIN DUONG*
Affiliation:
University of Virginia
*
Kevin Duong, Assistant Professor, Department of Politics, University of Virginia, kevin.t.duong@virginia.edu.

Abstract

This essay reconstructs an important but forgotten dream of twentieth-century political thought: universal suffrage as decolonization. The dream emerged from efforts by Black Atlantic radicals to conscript universal suffrage into wider movements for racial self-expression and cultural revolution. Its proponents believed a mass franchise could enunciate the voice of colonial peoples inside imperial institutions and transform the global order. Recuperating this insurrectionary conception of the ballot reveals how radicals plotted universal suffrage and decolonization as a single historical process. It also places decolonization’s fate in a surprising light: it may have been the century’s greatest act of disenfranchisement. As dependent territories became nation-states, they lost their voice in metropolitan assemblies whose affairs affected them long after independence.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association

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Footnotes

Special thanks are owed to Jeannette Estruth and Jennie Ikuta for their early abundant feedback. For their help, I also thank Nolan Bennett, Andrew Dilts, Laura Ford, Sina Jo, Chris McIntosh, Alys Moody, Duff Morton, David Kettler, Éric Trudel, the History of Capitalism group at Bard College, participants of the Association for Political Theory meeting in 2019, and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback.

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