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Global 1919: Remaking Worlds

November 01, 2019 to November 02, 2019


Heyman Center Common Room

Event Type: 

Global 1919: Remaking Worlds

Friday, November 1, 2019 2:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Saturday, November 2, 2019 10:00AM - 1:00PM

Location: Heyman Center Common Room

The Great War devoured lives, landscapes, and imperial institutions. Global 1919: Remaking Worlds will examine the aftermath of WWI on a global scale. Although experienced differently in different parts of the world, 1919 collectively transformed the conceptual vocabulary and political practice of empires, nations and states worldwide. Indeed, when the old power brokers of Europe gathered to divide the spoils of war they encountered questions and demands they had not anticipated. In the aftermath of the War, disenfranchised colonial subjects revolted in pursuit of independence, formerly marginalized groups demanded new rights, and theorists, visionaries, and artists drew inspiration from this climate of hope and uncertainty. By bringing together local and international historians interested in exploring the events and after-effects of 1919, we aim to attend to the fundamental transformations of world orders and imperial powers that were inaugurated by war and revolution. 

Many studies of global 1919 tend to view the “provincialization” of Europe against the backdrop of anticolonialism. Debates about the future of political communities at this time were critically poised between the alternatives of nation and empire, even as a range of new hybrids—from mandate trusteeship, to dominion colonies, and practices of indirect rule—emerged across Eurasia, the Middle East and sub-continental India, and Africa. Meanwhile, the Russian Revolution of 1917 (and the formation of the Soviet Union) had deeply impacted growing demands for self-determination by colonized peoples, as did new calls for minority rights, political independence, and human emancipation more broadly. Global 1919 follows suit and takes inspiration from a number of new works that have challenged older narratives of internationalism. While many such conventional histories in the past privileged the role of international organizations such as the League of Nations or the United Nations, as a number of new scholarly works have shown, these organizations themselves might best be understood as merely responding to rather than critically  shaping the then global rise of rights discourses and revolutionary international orders. 

By bringing together world regions typically separated by governing distinctions between the history of Europe and those of the “darker nations,” or by post-War regional divisions and disciplines organized around “area studies” we hope to examine the manner in which debates about self determination, political solidarity, minority rights and identity shaped intellectual traditions in decolonizing nations. Exploring a range of popular uprisings, revolutionary claims and political communities, we also aim to ask about the reach and relevance of a variety of global radical movements, from Marxist internationalism, pan-Islamism and pan-Africanism to emerging Afro-Asian solidarity movements. Yet, as we hope to underscore in our workshops too, the aftermath of WWI effected a profound transformation of political as much as social life. As such, we aim to explore the many experiments in rewriting histories of the self as much as the radical futures of communities in the global south that were torn apart by the violence of colonial regimes, imperial institutions and liberal juridical orders.


  • Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy
  • Institute for Comparative Literature and Society
  • Columbia Department of History
  • South Asia Institute

Conference Schedule 

Rebecca Karl - “The Shadow of Democracy: Thinking Today about the Centenary of May Fourth”
Radhika Singha - TBA
Jonathan Wyrtzen - “Reimagining the Post-Ottoman Greater Middle East from Above and Below in the Long Great War”

Coffee/Tea Break 

3:45- 5:15
Westenely Alcenat - “Race at the Service of Empire: The Global Legacy of 1919, the United States Occupation of Haiti, and the Modernization of Racism”
Lydia Liu - “The Color of Moral Thought After 1919”
Hussein Omar - “The Age of Minority”

Manu Goswami - “Constructivist Comparisons: Mapping the 1920 Colonial and National Theses”
Aaron Jakes - “The Gulf Between the Effendi Class and the Fellahin: Encountering Economism in the Archives of 1919”

Roundtable: Paul Chamberlin, Marwa Elshakry, Adam Green, Anupama Rao



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