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Internationalists, sovereigntists, nativists: Contending visions of world order in Pan-Africanism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 October 2019

Rita Abrahamsen*
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa
*Corresponding author. Email:


Contrary to common assumptions that the liberal world order was ‘made in the West’, this article argues that it was produced in interaction with Pan-African ideology and actors. Developing a morphological analysis, it identifies three contending visions of world order within Pan-Africanism: a world of continental unity and transnational solidarity; a world of national sovereignty; and a world of racially defined units. It concludes that Pan-Africanism contains intellectual and political resources for the defence, reinvigoration, and invention of a more just, equal and rule-bound multilateral world, but that this cannot be taken for granted. Pan-Africanism is neither inherently progressive, nor reactionary, and can support multilateralism and sovereigntism in equal measure. Pan-Africanism's nativism also carries particular risks at a time when similar identitarian viewpoints are promoted by Radical Right movements. Understanding the manner in which Pan-Africanism informs and legitimises diverse political agendas is thus of crucial importance for IR, for Pan-Africanists, and for the future of world order.

Research Article
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2019 

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