Issue 5.1

HUMANITY VOLUME 5, ISSUE 1

hum.5.1_front_smThis issue features a dossier on drones between past and present, including Trevor Paglen’s haunting and spectacular photos. Its regular articles include French philosopher Olivier Remaud’s rethinking of cosmopolitanism, an early take on his important new book on the topic. Finally, after a wide-ranging interview with James C. Scott, the issue concludes with essay-reviews, notably Alberto Toscano’s lengthy and searing engagement with Robert Meister and others writing on the politics of humanitarianism.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Drones: A History From The British Middle East

This article offers a history of drones grounded in the British use of aerial control in the Middle East and Afghanistan before World War II, rather than in the history of technology. Such a history promises a better understanding of the drone strategy’s likelihood of success because it shows how history, memory, and politics have shaped both the use of aerial control and its reception. Specific cultural and political assumptions first underwrote the invention of aerial control in the Middle East and continue to guide the use of drones in the region today. Our focus on remote piloting as the most controversial aspect of drone use has distracted us from these critical continuities with earlier uses of air power. Read More »

BEYOND BOUNDS: MOROCCO'S RIF WAR AND THE LIMITS OF INTERNATIONAL LAW

This article examines the failure of international humanitarian law to sufficiently regulate the use of advanced military technologies, specifically in conflicts between sovereign and non-sovereign actors. This failure is twofold. First, the regulation of weapons consistently lags behind their development and use. Second, international humanitarian law generally excludes non-sovereign actors from its jurisdiction. Juxtaposing the 1925 Geneva Gas Protocol with the contemporaneous Moroccan Rif War reveals loopholes in international humanitarian law that enable major powers to enjoy unrestricted use of advanced military technologies toward imperial ends. This article contends that the failure to regulate chemical warfare in the 1920s has significant parallels with the nebulous legal status of drone warfare today. Read More »

INTRODUCTION TO THE PHOTO ESSAY

Executive editor Nicolas Guilhot introduces a collection of drone photographs by Trevor Paglen. Read More »

Photo Essay

In this untitled series of drone photographs, Trevor Paglen invites us to ponder the security state from within a horizon of angst. Read More »

THE ANTINOMIES OF COSMOPOLITAN REASON

Today, cosmopolitanism sometimes means one thing and sometimes the opposite. Remaud distinguishes between three antinomies in contemporary debates: the antinomy of independence, the antinomy of solidarity, and the antinomy of circulation. Remaud's thesis is that cosmopolitanism distinguishes a relationship to humanity that starts with its concrete images, its dramaturgical codes, and with the practical margins of maneuver that stem from an overwhelming or transient sentiment of distanciation from the world. Read More »

DEMOCRACY, GIVE OR TAKE?

In 2007, the King of Bhutan “gave” democracy to his people. Using this story as a point of departure, this article interrogates the complicated humanitarian notion of democracy as a gift in thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes, Claude Lefort, and Jacques Rancière. After bringing out the paradoxes in the King of Bhutan’s abdication, DeGooyer speculates to what degree a protest against the Bhutanese state might model a new formulation of democracy, one that cannot be reduced to a consensualist scheme of sovereign sacrifice. While DeGooyer concludes that we cannot fully abandon an economy of rights as “giving and taking,” a new discussion of the rhetorical structure of rights emerges. Read More »

"TRANSFORMING THE NATURE OF THE STRUGGLE": AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES C. SCOTT

In this interview, Yale political scientist and anthropologist James C. Scott talks about the evolution of his work on the state from the perspective of those who try to avoid it. The author of Weapons of the Weak, Seeing like a State, and The Art of Not Being Governed—to cite some of Scott’s major books—discusses the major intellectual influences on his work, from Pierre Clastres to Ernest Gellner, his views of the mainstream sociology of the state, and what distinguishes his work from subaltern studies, as well as the contemporary forms that the refusal of state government can take. In discussing his work, Scott also provides a window onto a personal and intellectual voyage that has led him to develop a unique view of modernity and social development. Read More »

THE TACTICS AND ETHICS OF HUMANITARIANISM

This review article explores the incisive critiques of contemporary humanitarianism advanced in Meister’s After Evil and Weizman’s The Least of All Possible Evils. Read jointly, the two books allow us to move beyond generic invocations of ethics and liberal visions of international law, in order to explore deeply problematic dimensions of the politics of human rights. Meister’s analysis of “human rights discourse” reveals a technology of time that infinitely postpones justice in the name of a pacifying transition, while Weizman’s chronicling of the spatial strategies of humanitarianism shows us how the calculated lessening of evil is one of the foremost figures of neo-colonial and neo-imperial violence today. Read More »

ON NARRATIVE AND HUMAN RIGHTS

How does narrative affect, and how is it affected by, the development and promotion of human rights? This article analyzes three schools of thought: (1) sympathetic narratives have, over significant arcs of time, cultivated our sensibilities, expanded our range of felt moral responsibility, and fundamentally altered the social function of empathy; (2) sympathetic narratives fail to promote human dignity because they allow the experience of emotional response to substitute for the experience of moral responsibility; and (3) neither of these general claims is useful; instead we should track the cultural functions of particular narrative forms in specific legal/organizational contexts. Read More »

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