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date: 12 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Human rights historians have made two erroneous arguments concerning self-determination: first, that anticolonial movements used the discourse of self-determination primarily for instrumental goals, and to achieve broader goals, eg, economic development, racial equality. Second, that, by the 1960s, self-determination’s fiercest advocates in the Global South had reduced the principle cum-right ‘to the receipt of statehood and perpetual non-intervention thereafter,’ diluting its liberal, democratic implications. Both arguments, this chapter argues, oversimplify the myriad ways in which a variety of state and non-state actors deployed self-determination claims to envision sovereignty and human rights in the era of decolonization, where self-determination was a form of claim making about the nature and scope of post-colonial rights and sovereignty, an open-ended, rather than a fixed, concept. This essay focuses on UN debates, over the status of self-determination as a human right, among colonial powers and anti-colonial activists concerning the proper ‘form’ that self-determination could/should take.

Keywords: Self-determination, human rights, decolonization, nationalism, revolution, non-alignment, war, United States

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