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 Continue reading →

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 Continue reading →

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 Continue reading →

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 Continue reading →

Job Posting: Assistant Professor, Human Rights Institute and Department of History, University of Connecticut

http://web2.uconn.edu/uconnjobs/faculty/schools_colleges/clas.php Job Posting Title: Assistant Professor, Human Rights Institute and Department of History The Human Rights Institute and the Department of History at the University of Connecticut invite applications for a tenure-track joint appointment in History and Human Rights at the assistant professor level beginning August 23, 2017.  The research and teaching responsibilities of the successful candidate will be situated in the Human Rights Institute and the History Department (the tenure home of the appointment), both of which have thriving research communities and strong undergraduate Continue reading →

“Yet there is a Need”: Human Rights as an Intellectual Practice (Part 2)

This paper was first given at the Stockholm Conference on Human Rights, May 26, 2015. This concludes the post that appeared yesterday. For most of the critiques of human rights, the tragic flaw in the entire system, the serpent in the garden of universal rights, is the state. In theory, the state has no role in determining human rights, which pertain to the species rather than the polis. Indeed, modern human rights—the UDHR version—were conceived as a way of protecting individuals, and the “intermediate institutions,” Continue reading →

“Yet there is a Need”: Human Rights as an Intellectual Practice (Part 1)

This paper was first given at the Stockholm Conference on Human Rights, May 26, 2015. The second part will appear tomorrow. Like others here, I received a very kind invitation to participate in this conference. The letter noted that the concept of human rights, once limited to cases of torture and slavery, had acquired a wider applicability, and was now deployed in a wide range of situations. The concept of species-specific rights had, this letter said, brought into focus “innumerable examples” of “violations” that otherwise Continue reading →

Theses on Humanitarianism and Human Rights

What follows is the rough draft of some thoughts on the topic prompted by an exciting upcoming conference at George Washington University. 1. The almost universal tendency is to conflate the two categories, and it is understandable that the minority and prophylactic response to this conflation has been to distinguish them for the sake of analytical clarity and historical propriety. Obviously, life is messy, and no set of distinctions is perfect, but it seems wiser to avoid conflation and to err on the side of Continue reading →

Response to the Commentators, Part Two

This post is part of a roundtable discussion on two historiographic articles by Joseph Hodge published in recent issues of Humanity. For more about the roundtable and all currently available posts please see this page. Once again let me express my gratitude to the commentators, most of who appear to agree with the overall argument, analysis and historiographical arc I have sketched out in these essays. That said, as previously noted, several contributors also see the need to reflect more deeply about the study of Continue reading →

Response to the Commentators, Part One

This post is part of a roundtable discussion on two historiographic articles by Joseph Hodge published in recent issues of Humanity. For more about the roundtable and all currently available posts please see this page. I would like begin by expressing my gratitude to the Humanity editorial collective, and especially to Nils Gilman and Sam Moyn, for providing me with the opportunity to publish these two pieces. I would also like to thank the commentators – Tom Robertson, Corinna Unger, Robert Packenham, David Ekbladh, Steve Continue reading →