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Challenging the Liberal Order from Within:
The Invisible History of the United Nations and the Global South - INVISIHIST

​The main aim of INVISIHIST is to reveal and unravel the invisible histories of the UN, transcending the dominant Western perspective to recover the historical agency of Global South actors. The research will investigate how the UN has both facilitated and limited their role in shaping global order from 1945-1981. 

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Research aim

Even though two-thirds of UN member states belong to the Global South, our histories of the UN are from the western perspective. The EU-funded INVISIHIST project will provide pioneering new histories of the UN, highlighting the agency and effects of Global South actors in changing the UN. This will produce a new decolonised genealogy of the organisation and a global history of Global South actors over time. It will examine archives across the Global South and reveal invisible histories of the UN in the period between 1945 and 1981. The project will consider the Global South actors’ impact concerning decolonisation, economic development and human rights, follow the ways they challenged the liberal world order and analyse how this led to hierarchies of power, inclusion and exclusion within and between the UN and the Global South.


Research description

Of the 193 member states of the United Nations (UN), over half belong to the grouping known as the Global South (also called the Developing World or Third World). Since its creation in 1945, Global South actors have sought to redefine political dynamics and change normative practices through the UN. Yet, histories of the organization are predominantly from the Western perspective. Challenging this view, this research will make a ground-breaking contribution to the field, providing a new genealogy of the UN within the contextual frame of global history in order to investigate how Global South actors shaped global order.


It will bring together different perspectives of the UN from archives across the Global South, revealing currently invisible histories of the organization by examining how it was developed by Global South actors between 1945-1981. The project has 3 closely related objectives:


1. To examine how actors from the Global South changed the UN by developing its functions in the areas of decolonization, economic development and human rights;


2. To trace the ways in which Global South actors challenged the liberal world order as they pursued these rights;


3. To analyze why Global South agency at the UN led to the promotion of some issues and actors and excluded others and ask what the consequences were for order within the Global South.

For more, please visit the university-linked webpage, here.

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