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Sovereigns, Quasi Sovereigns, and Africans

Race and Self-Determination in International Law

1996
Author:

Siba N’Zatioula Grovogui

Sovereigns, Quasi Sovereigns, and Africans

Examines the relationship between international law and decolonization in Africa.

In this trenchant critique, Grovogui demonstrates the failure of international law to address adequately the issues surrounding African self-determination during decolonization. Challenging the view that the only requirement for decolonization is the elimination of the legal instruments that provided for direct foreign rule, he probes the universal claims of international law.

“Theoretically rich and innovative. Grovogui offers an important contribution to the study of international law and African politics.” Political Science Quarterly

In this trenchant critique, Siba N’Zatioula Grovogui demonstrates the failure of international law to address adequately the issues surrounding African self-determination during decolonization. Challenging the view that the only requirement for decolonization is the elimination of the legal instruments that provided for direct foreign rule, Sovereigns, Quasi Sovereigns, and Africans probes the universal claims of international law.

Grovogui begins by documenting the creation of the “image of Africa” in European popular culture, examining its construction by conquerors and explorers, scientists and social scientists, and the Catholic Church. Using the case of Namibia to illuminate the general context of Africa, he demonstrates that the principles and rules recognized in international law today are not universal, but instead reflect relations of power and the historical dominance of specific European states.

Grovogui argues that two important factors have undermined the universal applicability of international law: its dependence on Western culture and the way that international law has been structured to preserve Western hegemony in the international order. This dependence on European-dominated models and legal apparatus has resulted in the paradox that only rights sanctioned by the former colonial powers have been accorded to the colonized, regardless of the latter's needs. In the case of Namibia, Grovogui focuses on the discursive strategies used by the West and their southern African allies to control the legal debate, as well as the tactics used by the colonized to recast the terms of the discussion.

Grovogui blends critical legal theory, historical research, political economy, and cultural studies with profound knowledge of contemporary Africa in general and Namibia in particular. Sovereigns, Quasi Sovereigns, and Africans represents the very best of the new scholarship, moving beyond narrow disciplinary boundaries to illuminate issues of decolonization in Africa.

Siba N’Zatioula Grovogui is assistant professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. He previously practiced law in his native Guinea.

Sovereigns, Quasi Sovereigns, and Africans

Siba N’Zatioula Grovogui is professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. He previously practiced law in his native Guinea.

Sovereigns, Quasi Sovereigns, and Africans

“Theoretically rich and innovative. Grovogui offers an important contribution to the study of international law and African politics.” Political Science Quarterly

“Sovereigns, Quasi Sovereigns, and Africans represents the very best of the new scholarship which moves beyond narrow disciplinary boundaries. The author blends critical legal theory, historical research, political economy and cultural studies with a profound knowledge of contemporary Africa in general and Namibia in particular. It is a book that will not only be of interest to legal scholars and Africanists but also to many academics struggling to push beyond the boundaries of their own disciplines.” Allen Isaacman, University of Minnesota (He’s the director of the MacArthur Interdisciplinary Program on Peace and International Cooperation; he’s equally well-known in history and African Studies).

“Mr. Siba N’Zatioula Grovogui has written an excellent study of the relationship between structures of international governance and the colonial imagination. A fascinating, informative and intellectually stimulating read. Sovereigns, Quasi Sovereigns, and Africans reflects recent literatures of social criticism, post-colonialism and new approaches to international law scholarship.” David Kennedy, Harvard Law School (Kennedy is known in legal studies)

A brilliant book with a great deal to offer several diverse constituencies within our discipline.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

A brilliant book with a great deal to offer.

MAN