Pierre du Bois Chair Public Lectures – Disclosing The Problem of Empire in the International Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois by Adom Getachew

Michael Goebel will pursue the aims of the Pierre du Bois Chair by also organizing a series of public lectures that address Europe’s role in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century world, for example through colonialism and migration, as well as the question of how that global role conversely impacted European history itself.

Disclosing The Problem of Empire in the International Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois

MONDAY 12 APRIL 2021, 16:00 – 17:30

The picture of the world as composed of discrete and independent states still exercises a hold over our political imagination. This is an image in which the domestic regime and constitution of the state is disaggregated from international relations, sovereign independence characterises the relations of states to each other, and international organisations recognise this sovereignty through equal standing. This tripartite image of a domestic constitution, external sovereignty, and equal membership in international society obscures longstanding imperial entanglements that have structured the modern world.

This online lecture argued that, W. E. B Du Bois, whose international writings span the decades when this image of the world came to be dominant, productively illuminates its blind spots and offers conceptual resources to move beyond its limits. Critical reflection on the problem of empire and a sustained attention to the relationship between the domestic and international realms of politics were persistent features of Du Bois’s political thought, from his early articulations of the argument that “the color line belts the world.”


Adom Getachew is Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago. She is a political theorist with research interests in the history of political thought, theories of race and empire, and postcolonial political theory. Adom holds a joint PhD in Political Science and African-American Studies from Yale University. She is on the faculty board of the Pozen Center for Human Rights, a fellow at the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory, and a faculty affiliate at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture.




A Video of the Lecture is available below.