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The UN Security Council (Photo Credit: Shannon Stapelto/Reuters)

The Humanitarian God in the Political Marketplace

The Endtimes of Human Rights Stephen Hopgood Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2013. vii + 255 pp. Speaking Rights to Power: Constructing Political Will Alison Brysk Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. xi + 252 pp. Over a decade ago, David Kennedy asked supporters of international “human rights to think hard about whether the human rights movement might, on balance, and acknowledging its enormous achievement, be more part of the problem in today’s world than part of the solution.”1 Since then, powerful realist critiques of the Read More »

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“Globalization,” what is it good for?

This piece has previously appeared in German translation in Heft 10 (Oktober 2016). When the global economic crisis erupted in 2008, it was not only historians who scurried in search of the lessons of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Nearly a decade later, as analysts of Britain’s departure from the EU diagnose the symptoms of an economic malaise called “globalization,” it is again worth considering what we can learn from the past. It might seem unimaginable—given the turn in present-day political rhetoric—but through the Read More »

Humanitarian Spaces: Three Concepts for a History (Part 3)

This is part three in a series. See here for parts one and two. Oath and language: In my third and final example, I come to probably the most important element in structuring humanitarian spaces: language. It is in language that the connection between the spheres of humanitarianism, power, and politics becomes clearest. Here, I will not look at the meanings of the words or programmes of humanitarians; I am interested in the function of humanitarian language within the political sphere. In his work on Read More »

Humanitarian Spaces: Three Concepts for a History (Part 2)

This is part two in a series. For part one, see here. Part three will follow tomorrow. Structuring knowledge: If the Maussian concept can help to see social spaces with dynamic and asymmetric power relations, theories developed by Foucault can sharpen the understanding of the institutionalization of knowledge as a strategy of governance. In the field of humanitarianism the example is the standardization and dissemination of knowledge.[1] Many books have been written on missions and operations, but little research has been done on the development Read More »

Humanitarian Spaces: Three Concepts for a History (Part 1)

This is the first post in a series of three. Parts two and three will be published on subsequent days. In his book Empire of Humanity, Michael Barnett outlines some of the strengths and contradictions of humanitarianism using the notion of “empires.” First, he applies this notion to the definition of humanitarianism: “What distinguishes humanitarianism from previous acts of compassion is that it is organized and part of governance, connects the immanent to the transcendent, and is directed at those in other lands.”[1] The question Read More »

Call for Applications: Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy

International Research Academy on the History of Global Humanitarianism Academy Leaders: Fabian Klose (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz) Johannes Paulmann (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz) Andrew Thompson (University of Exeter) in co-operation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva) and with support by the German Historical Institute London Venues: Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz & Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva Dates: 10-21 July 2017 Deadline: 31 December 2016 Information at: http://ghra.ieg-mainz.de/, http://hhr.hypotheses.org/ and http://imperialglobalexeter.com/ The Read More »

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