Timnet Gedar

  • Fellowship year:2020-2021
  • University: University of Michigan
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Africa
  • Dissertation Title: Fikri Hagher: Political Thought, Violence, and the Decolonization of Eritrea, 1941-1952
  • My dissertation reframes nationalist and teleological theories of African decolonization by examining the unique case of Eritrea. Because it was one of the very first African colonies to experience the onset of decolonization but among the last to achieve independence, I argue that it is a generative case revealing the nonlinearity and multi-pronged nature of decolonization. I claim that nationalism was not the only driver of decolonization and show the limitations of the traditional colonizer-subject dichotomy for understanding anti-colonial movements. I provide an analysis of Eritrean political thought concerning ‘universal’ political ideas such as freedom and sovereignty and argue that the seeming tension between the intellectual debates around these ideas and the street violence in Eritrea was in fact a negotiation that demonstrates the diverse intellectual praxis of Eritrean writers and activists in the mid-twentieth century. My examination of the political thought of Eritrean writers and activists expands the emerging field of African intellectual history and expands our understanding of universal political ideas by interrogating them beyond the Western canon. This examination, in turn, builds upon the growing scholarly attention to the globally consequential role of colonized and formerly colonized peoples in the post-World War II moment of worldmaking. The dissertation contributes to overturning the historiographic erasure of their political subjecthood, acts of self-determination, and articulations of sovereignty during a watershed moment in global history.