Jan Erk


Cape Town (South Africa)

From March 25 to April 5, 2019

Biography —

Jan Erk is currently with the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA) at the University of Pretoria. He is also Extraordinary Professor at the the University of the Western Cape, also in South Africa. Prior to joining ICLA, Jan was Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS) and held the Bradlow Fellowship at Witwatersrand University, both in South Africa. In 2016, he was elected the Jan Smuts Memorial Fellow at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge. He has also held teaching positions at the University of Toronto, Central European University, Leiden University, and is recurring Visiting Professor at the School of Law and Governance of Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. Jan’s most recent books are 1) The Ethnopolitics of Ethnofederalism in Ethiopia; 2) Decentralization, Democracy, and Development in Africa; and 3) Federalism and Decentralization in Sub-Saharan Africa (all three by Routledge 2018).

Project —

Extracting Lessons from Africa’s Defunct Federations and Failed Secessions: Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns

At Faber I will be working on a legal-political historical overview aiming to map out the processes of self-determination. The seven decades of post-War African politics include quite a few lessons and insights into the politics of self-determination, separation, and secession. I aim to identify these comparative patters across time and geography in Africa. The emphasis is on longue durée historical patterns spanning precolonial, colonial, and post-colonial periods which make some quests for self-determination more likely. Reflecting on Africa’s experience, my work will seek to expose what we can know, what we cannot know, and how to navigate such an uncertain future.