Authorized to supervise theses. and Associate Professor, Department of History

2004 ― PhD History, University of Wisconsin, Madison
2000 ― MA History, University of Wisconsin, Madison
1997 ― BA History, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga

556 Fauteux Building
Human Rights Research and Education Center

Office: 613-562-5800 ext. 7253

Work E-mail:


Ongoing research

SSHRC Insight Grant, 2016-2020

Activism Along the Global Fringe: Rogue Lawyers as Rights Activists in Africa from the 1920s to the Early Independence Years

This project leverages historical data to demonstrate how Africans, in connection with Africa-descended activists in the African diaspora, activists and lawyers in Europe, the United Kingdom and North America, were leaders in making rights claims and advancing legal arguments against colonialism throughout the twentieth century.

SSHRC 2011-2014

African United Nations Trusteeships, Decolonization, and Early Human Rights NGOs, 1948-1973

Awards and Distinctions

Membership in the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies, Princeton, New Jersey, 2015-2016

University of Cambridge, Visiting Fellowship at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH), Lent Session, 2012

American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 2011-2012

Selected publications


Nation of Outlaws, State of Violence. Nationalism, Grassfields Tradition and State Building in Cameroon. Ohio University Press, 2014,+State+of+Violence

Petitioning for Our Rights, Fighting for Our Nation: The History of the Democratic Union of Cameroonian Women,  1949-1960.  Langaa Research & Publishing, 2013. 

Edited and coedited books

African Asylum at a Crossroads: Activism, Expert Testimony, and Refugee Rights (with Benjamin Lawrance, Iris Berger, Jo Tague, and Tricia Hepner-Redeker), Ohio University Press, 2015.


Recent blogposts

“The Unfinished Business Between Cameroon and France” for Africa is a Country, 21 March 2017,


Selected Peer-reviewed Articles, published and forthcoming


“‘In the Colonies, Black Lives Don’t Matter.’ Legalism and Rights Claims Across the Interwar French Empire,” Journal of Contemporary History, Special issue on Transwar Anticommunism and Antifascism, forthcoming, Jan. 2018.


“Rogue Lawyers, Decolonization and the Roots of Judicial Neocolonialism in Independence Era Africa,” Journal of Canadian History, special issue “New Histories of Twentieth-Century Decolonization,” edited by Christopher Dietrich and Maurice Jr. Labelle, forthcoming.


“Where are the Lawyers, the Activists and the Claimants?” Review Essay on Steven L. B. Jensen, The Making of International Human Rights: The 1960s, Decolonization, and the Reconstruction of Global Values (Cambridge 2016), Human Rights Quarterly, 39.1 (2017): 226-33.

"Cause lawyering et anticolonialisme: activisme politique et Etat de droit dans l'Afrique française, 1946-1960," Politique africaine, no. 138 (2015/2): 25-28

"Une campagne d'opinion contre l'Apartheid: l'affaire de la greffe du coeur (1968)," Matériaux pour l'histoire de notre temps, no. 115-116 (2015/1), 52-62.

"From Below and to the Left? Human Rights and Liberation Politics in Africa's Postcolonial Age", Journal of World History, 2013, v. 24 (2), p. 389-416.

“‘We Had Been Fooled into Thinking that the UN Watches over the Entire World.’ Human Rights, UN Trust Territories and Africa’s Decolonization,” Human Rights Quarterly (Johns Hopkins University Press), 2013.

Avec Dieudonné Pouhe Pouhe, “Emeutes de la faim et apprentis sorciers: Eléments d’une tradition politique camerounaise après 50 ans d’indépendance et 20 ans d’opposition, » Afroscopie : Revue savante et pluridisciplinaire sur l’Afrique et les communautés noires (Paris : L’Harmattan) No. 2, January 2012.

“Cameroonian Nationalists Go Global: From the Forest Maquis to a Pan-African Accra,” Journal of African History (Cambridge University Press), 51.2 (2010): 189-212.

“Chiefs, Traitors, and Representatives: The Construction of a Political Repertoire in Independence-Era Cameroun,” International Journal of African Historical Studies (Boston University Press) 43.2 (2010): 227-58.

“A Miscarriage of Nation: Cameroonian Women and Revolution, 1949-1971,” for special issue on Fracturing Binarisms: Gender and Colonialisms in Africa, Stichproben: Vienna Journal of African Studies, No. 12 (2007): 61-90.

“‘God of Peace, God of Independence.’ Village Nationalism in theMaquis of Cameroun, 1957-1971,” Journal of African History (Cambridge University Press) 46.1 (2005): 75-101.

Selected Book Chapters, Published and Forthcoming:


“Legal Rights or Human Rights? Cause Lawyering, Political Prisoners and Political Refugees during French Cameroon’s Transition from United Nations Trust Territory to State,” in The Pasts of the Present: Internationalism, Imperialism and the Formation of the Contemporary World, London: Palgrave Macmillan, edited by Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and José Pedro Monteiro, forthcoming 2017 (and appearing in Portuguese in Os impérios do internacional: Perspectivas, genealogias e processos. Lisboa: Almedina, 2017).


“The French Trials of Cléophas Kamitatu: Immigration Politics, Leftist Activism, and Françafrique in 1970s Paris,” in Nathan Carpenter and Benjamin N. Lawrance, eds. Anxieties of the State: Africans in Exile Past and Present, Bloomington, Indiana: University of Indiana Press, forthcoming.


“Rights Claims and Legal Activism in the Internationally Supervised Territories of Colonial Era Africa,” in Jean Quataert and Lora Wildenthal, eds. The Routledge History of Human Rights, London, UK, forthcoming.


“Fraudulent Asylum-Seeking as Transnational Mobilization,” in Benjamin Lawrance et al, eds., African Asylum at a Crossroads: Activism, Expert Testimony, and Refugee Rights, Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2015, 22 pp.


Selected Reviews


Roundtable Review of Susan Pedersen, The Guardians:  The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford University Press 2015), H-Diplo 18.2 (12 Sept. 2016): 7-10.


Gregory Mann, From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel: The Road to Nongovernmentality (Cambridge University Press 2015), American Historical Review, 2016, 121 (1): 341-2.

From students with an interest in human rights and refugee law in historical perspective, Professor Terretta welcomes proposals for research projects in the fields of human rights, refugee history and African studies. 


Fields of Interest

  • Africa south of the Sahara
  • Political and cultural history
  • Nationalisms
  • Post-colonialism
  • Human Rights
  • Historiography
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