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 →

Against Self-Determination

It is often claimed that anticolonial nationalism and self-determination have a coeval history, indeed, that self-determination is the principle through which anticolonialists would achieve their declared goal of independence from colonialism.1 The story goes that not only have anticolonialism and self-determination emerged around the same historical juncture but they are also imbricated in one another, so much that the colonial recognition of one automatically leads to the colonial recognition of the other. Yet, on closer inspection, this seems to be a misleading narrative. Not only Continue reading → Continue reading →

Promise-Making and the History of Human Rights: Reading Arendt with Danto

Dear Mr. President: This is to draw attention to the cases of a group of colleagues of ours, historians well known in the academic community, all of whom are now in prison . . . Every scholar has a vested interest in this matter. Faithfully, Hannah Arendt (Letter to Augusto Pinochet, November 27, 1974, writing at the urging of an Amnesty International chapter in Brussels)1 Dear Dr. Kissinger: We noted with pleasure the implication in your conversation with Mr. Moyers that you are actively intervening Continue reading → Continue reading →

The Art of Chameleon Politics: From Colonial Servant to International Development Expert

In 1974, Kenneth Sargent, a former British colonial servant turned United Nations employee, received a prestigious award from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for his services in development work.1 At the award ceremony at the FAO headquarters in Rome, Sargent’s résumé was distributed to delegates. It deliberately glossed over his colonial service. What should we read into this omission? Scholars have described and criticized international development as the old European civilizing mission under new guise, outlasting the formal end of colonialism. In that Continue reading → Continue reading →

The Politics of Neutrality: Cimade, Humanitarianism, and State Power in Modern France

In its 2008 annual report on the status of “centers and locations of administrative retention” for undocumented migrants (les sans-papiers) in France, the French Protestant aid organization Cimade accused Brice Hortefeux, the French minister of immigration, of engaging in a dubious and polemical attempt to sanction the organization for its increasingly harsh critiques of the government’s policies and practices toward these populations.1 Between 1984 and 2007, Cimade had been the only nongovernmental organization (NGO) to have access inside the twenty-five centres de rétention administrative (administrative Continue reading → Continue reading →

Catholic Social Doctrine and Human Rights: From Rejection to Endorsement?

The Catholic Church is today widely regarded as one of the staunchest advocates of human rights, a perception that Vatican authorities have done much to both uphold and foster over the course of the past few decades. At least since the second half of the 1960s, reference to the notion of human rights has been pervasive in the official discourse produced by the Catholic Church, and the institution is also deeply implicated in the material support of a vast array of “humanitarian” organizations across the Continue reading → Continue reading →

Memory Offensives Where Impunity Reigns

Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala Kirsten Weld Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. Memory’s Turn: Reckoning with Dictatorship in Brazil Rebecca Atencio Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2014. The physical site, the material object, matters insofar as it represents an embodiment of a given meaning and a certain historical message. Yet what matters about such places goes beyond the physical location—it is the symbolic and subjective location of those who charge it with their own memory and their own meaning . . Continue reading → Continue reading →

CFP – Special Issue of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies

Call for Papers: Special Issue of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies on ‘Law, Governance and Development: Critical and Heterodox Approaches’ (co-edited by Mark Toufayan and Siobhan Airey) The myriad legal and policy instruments in the governance of development have shifted and evolved in significant ways in recent years, posing challenges to scholars, historians, policy-makers and practitioners on how to effectively map, analyse and critique their nature and effects. Contributions are being sought (in French and English) for a bilingual Special Issue of the Canadian Continue reading →

Karl Marx’s theory of free speech – part 2

This is part two of a two-part post. Part one is available here. Abstract: Much controversy has arisen around leftist attempts to curb provocative expression, particularly hate speech directed at certain vulnerable social groups. That coupling of leftism with censorship is, however, historically recent. For Marx, controls on speech serve more to hamper human emancipation than to promote it. In this essay it is argued that Marx’s critiques of rights are not as categorical as is sometimes thought. The “property right” paradigm does indeed represent Continue reading →

Karl Marx’s theory of free speech – part 1

This is part one of a two-part post. Part two will be available here. Abstract: Much controversy has arisen around leftist attempts to curb provocative expression, particularly hate speech directed at certain vulnerable social groups. That coupling of leftism with censorship is, however, historically recent. For Marx, controls on speech serve more to hamper human emancipation than to promote it. In this essay it is argued that Marx’s critiques of rights are not as categorical as is sometimes thought. The “property right” paradigm does indeed Continue reading → Continue reading →

Humanity Editorial Transition

The founding editorial collective of Humanity—Nehal Bhuta, Nils Gilman, Nicolas Guilhot, Samuel Moyn, Joseph Slaughter, and Miriam Ticktin—is pleased to announce that, after ten years, its members are stepping down. To take the journal into the future, a new editorial collective has formed. Our transition has already begun, and the official switchover from one collective to the other takes place in the new year. We congratulate and welcome the members of the new editorial collective, who are already open to contact and open for consultation: Continue reading →