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Colloquium: Transregional History | Dr. Emma Kluge (European University Institute): Decolonisation from the Margins: The Limits of Afro-Asian solidarity on West Papuan Activism

Traditional histories of decolonisation have tended to focus on struggles for decolonisation against European powers, particularly in Asia and Africa. In this paper, I move beyond this canon to explore the West Papuan campaign for independence in the 1960s. West Papuan activists asserted their right to self-determination and independence from both Dutch colonialism and Indonesian imperialism. The West Papuan campaign in the 1960s was deeply influenced by ideas circulating in Afro-Asian networks and at the United Nations. Through studying the campaign of West Papuan activists, I reveal new imagined networks of solidarity cultivated between Africa and the Pacific, while also drawing attention to the ways in which Global South politics worked against the claims of colonial peoples such as the West Papuans. Focusing on the West Papuan movement offers a new perspective on a transformative moment in international history, revealing how ideas relating to self-determination and decolonisation were critically engaged with by thinkers outside centres of power at the United Nations in New York.

Emma Kluge is a historian of decolonisation and anticolonial thinking and holds a Max Weber postdoctoral fellowship at the European University Institute. Her research investigates the intersection between anticolonial activism and institutions of global governance. She earned her PhD from the University of Sydney in 2021 with a dissertation on the West Papuan campaign for decolonization at the United Nations. In 2020, she published an article with the International History Review, ‘West Papua and the International History of Decolonisation, 1961-69’, and in 2022 she published another article with Humanity ‘A New Agenda for the Global South’ as part of a special issue on The Global South and the United Nations. Emma is currently working on her book manuscript ‘The Limits of Decolonisation: West Papua and the Politics of Self-determination in the 1960s’.


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