“Intervention without Empire: The Ethics of Foreign Influence in a Neo-Colonial World” with Dr. Lucia Rafanelli

Monday, February 3, 2020
5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Lindner Family Commons 602
The Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E St. NW

In a world filled with state-sanctioned oppression, many look to the international community to help secure justice when states fail or refuse to do so. But attempts by actors in one society to “promote justice” in another evoke the specter of colonialism. Indeed, even after formal decolonization, global politics bears potent markers of its imperial past. Current geopolitical power structures, embodied in both formal institutions and informal behavioral patterns, continue to empower people in the global West and North and disempower people in the global South, and what some refer to as the “Third World.” This raises the question: is there any way international actors can promote (their ideas of) justice around the world without reinforcing and perpetuating the objectionable power hierarchies associated with colonialism?


Dr. Rafanelli will argue there are ways for international actors to do so, but to meet this challenge, they must adhere to certain moral principles.



Dr. Lucia Rafanelli’s work has been published in Political Studies (2019) and The Journal of Political Philosophy (2017). Her book project, Promoting Justice Across Borders: Political Theory for the New Global Politics, develops ethical standards for what she calls “reform intervention” – an expansive category encompassing any deliberate attempt to promote justice in another society. Her primary research interests include contemporary political theory, global justice, and theories of human rights. She also has philosophical interests in collective agency and collective personhood, philosophy of law, and the ethics of artificial intelligence. She received her Ph.D. in Politics (with a specialization in Political Theory) from Princeton University in 2018.

She is an Assistant Professor of Political Science & International Affairs at the George Washington University and is a former affiliate of the Princeton Dialogues on AI and Ethics program and a current affiliate of the Institute for International Economic Policy at the George Washington University.

Read more about her here.

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