30 September - Decolonization and Globalization

Professor Martin Thomas, Department of History, University of Exeter, England

School of History, UCC

Thursday 30 September 2021, 16.00 (4 PM) - The paper will be delivered via MS Teams. Please, contact Dr Jérôme aan de Wiel, School of History, UCC, to request a Teams link: j.aandewiel@ucc.ie

Paper For something purported to be historically, economically, and culturally transformative, it was always likely that historians, economists, and social scientists would differ over the instruments, the specificity, and the significance of globalization. Regionally uneven and chronologically variable, assessing globalization’s historical impact is difficult in the absence of consensus over which vectors – economic output and trade flows, cultural connections and migratory patterns, or shifts in trans-regional power - best express its impact. Critics suggest that characterizing globalization as something with worldwide relevance misses the significance of its presumptive direction of travel. This, they insist, is regarded as one-way traffic, the practices and peoples (colonizing settlers especially) of the rich global North inexorably spreading outwards in a homogenizing process. For some, this is precisely the point. What looks like globalization in the age of empire was actually something unapologetically Eurocentric, a manifestation of imperial powers’ efforts to achieve ‘planetary hegemony’. For others, though, a primordial focus on Europe’s widening global influence is distorting. Reciprocal influences, cosmopolitan trade flows within the Global South, larger migrant movements in South and East Asia, plus other back-and-forth transnational connections get flattened or ignored entirely.
Whatever the path that globalization followed, the analytical risk in putting it atop all other causal factors is that decolonization, another long-term process unfolding around the world as the twentieth century rolled on, is reduced to secondary importance. Following this logic, choosing globalization as one’s explanation of choice pushes the end of empires into the background. This paper challenges this view by exploring decolonization’s role as a globalizing force. Professor Martin Thomas is Professor of Imperial History and director of the Centre for Histories of Violence and Conflict at the University of Exeter. A specialist in histories of violent decolonisation, he is currently writing a book for Princeton University Press: Globalizing Decolonization: Ending Empire and Remaking the World.

College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences

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