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 →

Genocide Recognition without Human Rights?

Over the course of this week, the Turkish government will be called to account for some of the most heinous human rights violations ever to be witnessed. This demand for justice won’t address the state’s reported crimes against the population of Afrin in the name of national security. And it will undoubtedly entail little, if any, scrutiny regarding the country’s current repressive measures against pro-democratic constituents. Indictments will not be made in international criminal courts or special tribunals. And the victims and perpetrators will not Continue reading →

Oxfam and the Problem of NGO Aid Appraisal in the 1960s

Abstract: During the United Nations’ first Development Decade (the 1960s), NGOs forged a place for themselves within the professional world of long-term development. Within this context, one British organisation – Oxfam – asked a straightforward question: does aid work? To answer, it appointed its own ‘aid appraiser’. This article examines what happened when the organisation was confronted with his reports. The self-perpetuating nature of development work has long been observed. How Oxfam responded to self-critique shows that the capacities for organisations to engage in self-assessment, Continue reading → Continue reading →

Measuring Malnutrition: The History of the MUAC Tape and the Commensurability of Human Needs

Abstract: The bracelet for assessing acute malnutrition (MUAC Strip) has become the signature tool of humanitarian aid: it is widely used for screening children into feeding programs, for producing statistics on nutritional status and for mapping emergencies. This article takes this tool as an entry point into the history of humanitarian expertise, following the medical doctors who invented the strip from the 1960s until today. Humanitarian organizations often argue that they address needs all over the world because human needs are universal per se. However, Continue reading → Continue reading →

A Theory of Atrocity Propaganda

Abstract: This essay offers a theory of atrocity propaganda and surveys strategies for countering it. I first review examples of atrocity propaganda disseminated before, during, and after WWI. I then explain how the linguistic tactic of persuasive definition makes it difficult to confirm, or rebut, reports of atrocities. Although both International Criminal Law and International Human Rights Law restrict willfully false stories of enemy misdeeds, these restrictions don’t solve the core problem of distinguishing legitimate and illegitimate reports of atrocities. The essay concludes by outlining Continue reading → Continue reading →