The Continued (if Limited) Emancipatory Potential of Self-Determination

This post is part of a symposium on Joseph Massad’s essay “Against Self-Determination.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Joseph Massad’s article “Against Self-Determination” offers a passionate, even polemical critique of what he calls the Wilsonian vision of self-determination. This is not the Wilsonian vision as laid out by Erez Manela, however, but rather a legitimizing ideology for the “right of conquest” of settler-colonial nations and peoples, as against the more emancipatory vision of Lenin and like-minded anticolonial nationalists. “Settler-colonists would only Continue reading →

Indigenous Self-Determination: A Response to Massad

This post is part of a symposium on Joseph Massad’s essay “Against Self-Determination.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. In his essay, Massad argues that the dominant form of self-determination has actually been used to reject various nations’ claims to self-determination. States only became open to the recognition of the right of self-determination, Massad claims, when such recognition would not include independence. Massad draws analogies between the Palestinian case and the cases of indigenous peoples around the world and discusses how colonisers Continue reading →

Decolonial Self-Determination and ‘No-State Solutions’

This post is part of a symposium on Joseph Massad’s essay “Against Self-Determination.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. In his trenchant essay, “Against Self-Determination,” Joseph Massad deftly argues that colonizing states crafted the dominant form of self-determination to limit the claims of anticolonial nationalism and enhance the claims of colonialism. He further zones in on the ways in which these structural limitations have served settler colonial states in ways that constrain indigenous peoples’ claims and access to their traditional territories—lands that Continue reading →


This post is part of a symposium on Joseph Massad’s essay “Against Self-Determination.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. I am most grateful for these four serious engagements with my essay. I had already learned much from the scholarship of all four respondents when I wrote my essay, which cites their important work. The essay, which is a short version of a much larger chapter that constitutes one third of my current book project, sought to provide a genealogy of the political Continue reading →

A Grudging Rescue: France, the Armenians of Cilicia, and the History of Humanitarian Evacuations

Abstract: Humanitarian evacuation is today a well-known practice, but as an articulated policy it only dates back to the evacuation from Macedonia of Kosovo Albanian refugees in 1999. This article investigates a much earlier example, the evacuation of Armenians from Cilicia (now in southern Turkey) by France in 1921. It shows how the evacuation of entire populations over long distances became thinkable, in an age of mass displacement and emerging humanitarian consciousness, and practicable, as military logistics were applied to humanitarian crises. It analyzes the Continue reading → Continue reading →

World Neoliberalism as Rebellion From Below?: British Squatters and the Global Interpretation of Poverty, 1946–1974

Abstract: This article considers connections between British anarchist theorists of squatting who emerged from the postwar housing crisis and World Bank experiments with titling squatters in the third world. It demonstrates that theorists of squatting such as Colin Ward and John F. C. Turner advocated for the ingenuity and intention of squatters in ways that resonated later with free-market thinkers, even while London’s squatters pushed an extended right to occupation that required the expansion of the state. By the 1970s, while British students squatted in Continue reading → Continue reading →

Chinese Humanism: From Revolution to Redemption

Abstract: In 1980s, humanism and human rights gained political momentum among reform-minded intellectuals within the Chinese Communist Party, who tried to incorporate the discourse into cultural and political projects they envisioned for the Party, which was operating under a reformist agenda. This project has been largely forgotten today, because it had failed politically. But as a cultural project it survived and changed the Chinese culture of the self. This paper revises the notion that the 80s was a period of cultural enlightenment that failed politically. Continue reading → Continue reading →

The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism

Abstract: Has the human rights movement helped entrench neoliberalism? Could it help displace it? This article analyzes “right to medicines” cases, arguing that human rights, even in “socioeconomic” form, can intensify inequality and reproduce neoliberal logics, where they are simply overlain upon the existing political economy. But other versions of human rights are possible too. By tracing the efforts of access to medicines groups to link the right to health to reforms of local and global intellectual property laws, I explore a form of human Continue reading → Continue reading →

The Report: A Strategy and Nonprofit Public Good

Abstract: In the context of increasingly stringent state regulations governing civil society, some groups in India have turned to report writing as a form of advocacy for civil society itself. Involving collaboration between NGOs and civil servants, reports make demands upon the state and seek to hold the government accountable for promises of welfare entitlements. Once written, reports are mobile technologies used to negotiate with governmental bodies, to galvanize and constitute the nonprofit sector as a coherent entity, to justify the value of NGO work, Continue reading → Continue reading →

The Rise and Fall of Euro-American Inter-State War

The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017. xxii + 430 pp. If one asked a group of historians, political scientists, and lawyers what they would consider the single most important treaty or international agreement of the last two centuries, one could expect a familiar set of names to be cited: Vienna, Versailles, the Geneva Conventions, Bretton Woods, Yalta, San Francisco, the GATT, Rome, Helsinki. Few would name Continue reading → Continue reading →