Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

Progress on trial: how national timescapes shape postcolonial reconciliation

Hampe-Nathaniel, Astrid (2021) Progress on trial: how national timescapes shape postcolonial reconciliation. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

[img] Text - Submitted Version
Download (2MB)
Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004329


This thesis argues that it is our very idea of progress, codified in law, which obstructs real progress when it comes to postcolonial reconciliation. This affects three discourses: (1) the academic debate on the rectification of historical injustice; (2) legal theory and practice in the fields of constitutional law, international criminal law and international human rights law; (3) the intensifying activist struggle for recognition of historically marginalised groups. Drawing on the methods of archival research, legal analysis and normative critique, I establish a comparative analysis of how different countries deal with their colonial past to find out why full historical reconciliation is so difficult to achieve. Part I searches for the origins of the globally dominant conception of progress and locates them firmly within the history of the West. Chapter 1 argues that the historical injustice debate is stuck because both proponents and opponents of redress rely on the same conception of time: Liberal Time. Chapter 2 traces the emergence of inherently progressive Liberal Time back to the impact which Christianity, the French Revolution and industrialisation had on European intellectual history. Chapter 3 shows how Liberal Time spread worldwide when it became a justification and tool for European imperial expansion. The conclusion of part I is thus that the conception of time that built Empire also impedes its dissolution. Part II engages in a comparative discourse analysis of three major trials in which the liberal Western ideal of progress was challenged. The trials reveal a shared imaginary of progress, but also differences in how national timescapes shape historical reconciliation. Chapter 4 shows that Britain’s cult of continuity makes the public acknowledgement of colonial wrongs comparatively easy. Chapter 5 posits that France’s foundational revolutionary rupture makes a productive dialogue about the past virtually impossible. Chapter 6 suggests that the US offers a synthesis between rupture and continuity, when measuring American progress against the ideals of the American Revolution. Chapter 7 distils these findings into the following predicament: the Western promise of progress cannot be fulfilled so long as our institutions defend an idea of progress which is itself oppressive and exclusionary.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Astrid Hampe-Nathaniel
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Ypi, Lea and Flikschuh, Katrin

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics