Between Communal Survival and National Aspiration: Armenian Genocide Refugees, the League of Nations, and the Practices of Interwar Humanitarianism

While the cause of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire had played an important role in shaping Western attitudes and ideas about humanitarian intervention and national self-determination, the collapse of efforts to create an Armenian state in the wake of genocide and World War I led the nascent League of Nations to elaborate efforts within the repertoire of humanitarianism to preserve the Armenians as a distinct community. Those efforts bring into relief evolving interwar thought and policies about refugees, human trafficking, and the place of international institutions in the protection of civilians. The practical failures of the League’s projects provided a field in which “rights talk” could take place and the modern refugee régime emerge. Continue reading →

Is a global history of development possible?

This post first appeared at Small Precautions.   What would a fully integrated “global” history of development entail? It would require Considering all actors in the development process: from the subaltern “objects” of development at one end of the spectrum, to various NGOs and IFIs and transnational corporations in the middle layers, to state elites in the North at the other end – recognizing the politically negotiated nature of each project Looking across all geographies in which development has been deployed: including not just the Continue reading →

The Athenians No Longer Know the Megarians

This post originally appeared on Al-Jumhuriya. Deluge © Imranovi The following is a talk given by Kelly Grotke for Stanford University’s conference on the subject of ‘Cruelty’, in which the prominent academic examines friendship, universality, and cruelty between the European past and the Syrian present. States of Friendship Friendship, for Cicero, was a virtuous thing, sustained by love, respect, and sincerity – this is why “one does not live with a friend as one would with a dictator.”[2] Similarly, for Etienne la Boétie: “…a tyrant never either Continue reading →

Beyond Good Intentions: Responsible and Effective Advocacy in the Digital Age

This review essay will appear in Humanity volume 9, issue 1. Advocacy in Conflict: Critical Perspectives on Transnational Activism Alex de Waal, editor Zed Books, 2015 Digital Humanitarians: How Big Data Is Changing the Face of Humanitarian Response Patrick Meier CRS Press, 2015 Dangerous Trade: Arms Exports, Human Rights, and International Reputation Jennifer Erickson Columbia University Press, 2015 On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake shook Haiti, leading to the collapse of much of its infrastructure, burying hundreds of thousands beneath the rubble. At a Continue reading →

Gunnar Myrdal in the Latest Issue of Humanity

This post originally appeared at HistPhil, where Maribel Morey is co-editor. She discusses the Gunnar Myrdal symposium featured in Humanity’s latest issue. Americans generally remember Gunnar Myrdal (1898-1987) as the astute Swedish observer of American race relations who authored the monumental study of black Americans that had been commissioned and funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944). Cataloguing the various ways that white Americans discriminated against black Americans, Myrdal argued in the two-volume manuscript that Continue reading →

Can a Citizen Be Sovereign?

Since the Rights of Man were proclaimed to be “inalienable,” irreducible to and undeducible from other right or laws, . . . man appeared as the only sovereign in matters of law as the people was proclaimed the only sovereign in matters of government. —Hannah Arendt1 Targeted killings by drone strikes ordered by the Obama administration have provoked vigorous debate in the United States about the power the executive holds to order the killing of enemy combatants without due process. However, questions regarding the U.S. Continue reading → Continue reading →

UNESCO and the United Nations Rights of Man Declaration: History, Historiography, Ideology

From the first months of 1947 up to October 1948, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) made a remarkable, and largely misunderstood, effort to directly shape the content of what became the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Although this effort failed in its objectives, the work of UNESCO during this short time (about a year and a half) has been invested with a range of meanings and interpretations Continue reading → Continue reading →

African Bureaucrats and the Exhaustion of the Developmental State: Lessons from the Pages of the Sudanese Economist

In the popular and scholarly imagination, Sudanese history is framed as a story of successive failed states, war, and destruction. This impression is aided by the fact that with the division of the country into the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan became one of only two states in postcolonial Africa formally partitioned. Additionally, Sudan was embroiled in civil wars for more than two-thirds of its history.1 Given this legacy, is it possible to write of a functional Sudanese Continue reading → Continue reading →

Debating History and Memory: Examining the Controversy Surrounding Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking

Among English-language audiences, Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking (1997) is one of the better-known books about the Nanking Massacre.1 The Nanking Massacre took place between December 1937 and January 1938 when advancing Japanese troops captured and occupied the Chinese capital. In the roughly six weeks that followed, over a hundred thousand Chinese civilians and disarmed soldiers were killed, and widespread instances of rape, looting, arson, and violence occurred.2 For nonspecialist readers in the United States who had little knowledge of the Massacre, Chang’s work Continue reading → Continue reading →

Working with the Frames of War

The mood is wrong, the atmosphere stained, and something is odd about the light. These things are not easy to say, and harder to explain, but you can feel them. And now they can be seen. —Robert Hariman1 In the aftermath of 9/11, the American government launched the war on terror in order to impose the prosecution of its foreign policy. From the onset, the war on terror’s powerful visual and verbal narratives made it almost impossible to oppose its rationale and to suggest alternative Continue reading → Continue reading →

A Lens on Mohamedou Slahi at Guantánamo: A Conversation with Debi Cornwall and Larry Siems

Beginnings Jean-Philippe Dedieu: How did you first become interested in Guantánamo? Larry Siems: I came to this through my human rights work, and I came to human rights work through literature. I have a master’s degree in fine arts in poetry from Columbia. I’ve always been challenged by the idea of how writing and activism intersect and by poetry that makes action urgent and its nature clear. When I moved to California not long after graduate school, I was deeply interested in the American political Continue reading → Continue reading →