Students in U.S. history surveys come away from their lessons on World War I with one conflict fresh in their minds: How could Woodrow Wilson, a president who advocated segregation and famously screened the racist film Birth of a Nation in the White House, also have been an architect of the League of Nations and a champion of the self-determination of colonized people in Africa and Asia?
In this episode, we speak with Adom Getachew, who casts Wilson in a different light. She argues that the people who developed ideas of self-determination were instead anti-colonial elites from colonized nations. Wilson worked against their aims and tried to reestablish racial hierarchies and white dominance. These anti-colonial thinkers fought for decolonization as a means to fight global white supremacy and capitalist exploitation of the global South.
Adom Getachew is Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination.