Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Caribbean Colonial Subjects, ‘Colonial Transfers’ and Freedom in the aftermath of WW1

17 January 2023, 4:30 pm–6:00 pm

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SPRC Colloquium with Kesewa John (UCL, Institute of the Americas)

This event is free.

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Open to

All | UCL staff | UCL students




Sarah Parker Remond Centre


IAS Common Ground
G11, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building
UCL, Gower Street, London

This paper revisits the 1919 Peace Conference in Versailles and its echoes, particularly in the demand for the ‘return’ of colonies confiscated from Germany as part of the peace agreement. With the former German colonies parcelled out largely to France and Britain under the mandate system, best exemplified by the case of Cameroon, this work considers how little-known collectives of Caribbean people from French and British colonies, such as the Universal Loyal Negroes, who were themselves the descendants of enslaved Africans, understood and responded collectively to the European bartering of African peoples in the early twentieth century.

Drawing on their own words, found primarily in letters and articles published in in the radical Black press in the Caribbean and in Europe, the paper argues that the refusal to seriously consider extending the principle of self-determination to Africans and peoples of African descent at Versailles ultimately supported a discursive trend toward critiquing the legitimacy of colonial rule, and paved the way for anti-imperialist and independence movements in both Africa and the Caribbean. It offers global, historical Black understandings of belonging, citizenship and justice useful to contemporary debates at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

About the Speaker

Dr Kesewa John

Associate Lecturer (Teaching) in Caribbean History at UCL Institute of the Americas

Kesewa John is a historian of Caribbean radicalism, intellectual history, and gender. Prior to joining UCL she worked as a Junior Fellow (ATER) at the Université des Antilles in Guadeloupe, and a Teaching Fellow (Lectrice and Vacataire) at same university in Martinique.

More about Dr Kesewa John