The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


This literature review examines the complicated relationship between anticolonial activism and the human rights framework that emerged in the wake of the Second World War. I contextualize the scholarly debate on the tension between conceptions of human rights as an individual entitlement and the collectivist nature of African anticolonial struggles. The universalism of the human rights framework endures the harsh light of critique, given its emergence from the twentieth-century European experience of genocide and great powers’ competing commitments to democracy and empire. The crimes against humanity committed in the name of colonial conquest and rule challenge the great powers’ moral authority as arbiters of human rights. Varied contexts of anticolonial struggle, from Algeria to Cameroon, offer different answers to the question of the efficacy and applicability of the human rights framework. Ultimately, I look to indigenous praxis and epistemology as paths to liberation that is not merely nominal.