Becoming an Emeritus Distinguished Professor at UNC is just one of the accomplishments in the illustrious political and academic career of Bereket Habte Selassie.
Selassie, an Eritrean activist and a prominent scholar of African studies and law, held a book launch party at Bull’s Head Bookshop on Wednesday for his new collection of essays entitled “Words that Govern and Other Essays on Law and Politics.” The essays are based on keynote lectures he has delivered, and the title is derived from a Benjamin Disraeli quote, which speaks to the nature of language in writing and implementing policy.
Selassie has served as an associate justice on Ethiopia's Supreme Court and a member of the Constitutional Commission of Eritrea, working with others to author the constitution from 1994-97. Before coming to UNC as a professor in both the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies and the UNC School of Law, Selassie taught at Georgetown University and Howard University. Selassie has also authored several other books on law and politics.
The book focuses on topics including the relationship between globalization and democracy, the future of African politics through a pan-Africanist lens and institutional racism in the United States' criminal justice system. In his lead essay, entitled “Crime and Punishment in America,” Selassie calls for a resolution to the “original sin” of America’s issue of targeting men of color with mass incarceration and police violence, citing the murder of Trayvon Martin.
In his discussion, Selassie addressed questions concerning the reconciliation of pan-Africanist ideals with the need for the maintenance of nationalistic identity in African countries.