Making and Breaking Global Order in the Twentieth Century

Alanna O'Malley's picture
Call for Papers
October 14, 2022
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Asian History / Studies, Diplomacy and International Relations, Human Rights, Latin American and Caribbean History / Studies

Across the twentieth century, ideas about the global order have sparked a furious debate amongst scholars seeking to understand its power dynamics, structures, institutions, organisation and systems. The majority of the discussion has been centred around the role of states as critical to shaping the workings of the system of international relations and the horizon of peace and security. There has however been an inherent tendency to uphold conventional turning points such as the two World Wars, the Cold War and the North-South divide. We aim to go beyond these traditional understandings and rather focus on the institutions, nations, and often forgotten actors who were full participants alongside Great Powers in shaping the norms, systems and practices that make up global order. At the centre of our enquiry are the role of traditionally disenfranchised or marginalised actors of the Global South, including states, nations, transnational groups, regional organisations, trade union representatives, transnational corporations, activists, agitators and a host of other non-state actors. We also seek to probe the ways in which the different levels of global order interacted in organisations, especially the League of Nations and the United Nations and their associated agencies and systems. There has been a surge of recent scholarship dealing with the legacies and functions of these institutions of international order, and we wish to expand the actors, events, and narratives that play featured roles in the history of 20th century international institutional and organisational transformation.  

This conference, the first major event of the ERC funded project: ‘Challenging the Liberal World Order from Within, the Invisible History of the United Nations and the Global South,’ will be organised around four main trajectories of enquiry:

  1. Critical histories of international governance that may be attentive to Cold War and the postcolonial framings, but are not necessarily bound by them.
  2. How the UN generated and disseminated knowledge and information on key issues globally as well as the implementation of resolutions and decisions that generated new practices and norms.
  3. To problematize histories of Third World or Global South solidarity and competition.
  4. UN and international organizations as makers and breakers of statehood and enforcers of sovereignty even where this clashed with the assertion of other rights and claims of nationhood.

We encourage papers on a range of questions including but not limited to:

  • What is the Global South? What are the problems associated with using this term? Is it time to think of a new language to describe these actors?
  • How can we understand the role of Global South actors shaping structures and systems of international order(ing) across the twentieth century?
  • How did global order shape development, state-building and political economy in the Global South?
  • How did human rights play a role in challenging or shaping global order?
  • How can we conceive of different global orders? What are the consequences of this idea for South-South relations?
  • How can we understand hegemonies and asymmetries of power and the ways in which they operate?
  • How can the legacies and effect of institutions such as the Trusteeship Council and the Economic and Social Council be reconsidered?
  • What became of crusades around sovereignty and self-determination that were never internationalised? Why is this important for thinking about global order?
Contact Info: 

We welcome submissions from interested scholars at all levels for what we hope will be an exciting and transformative conference. We plan to publish select submissions after the conference takes place. One day of the conference will be dedicated towards early career scholars and the challenges and best practice of research in the Global South.

To apply please send an abstract of no more than 350 words and a short bio to: by 31 January 2022. Participants will be notified by 28 February 2022. Some funding is available to cover travel and accommodation expenses and will be prioritised for scholars coming from the Global South and for early-career researchers.

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