Abstract: Universal humanity—the idea that human beings are, in some ways, all the same, possessing the same needs and rights—is the guiding principle of humanitarian action. Within postcolonial studies, this universalist philosophy has come under intense scrutiny for its Western bias and neglect of cultural and historical difference. This article explores the tension between humanitarian discourse and postcolonial theory through analysis of Bessie Head’s fiction, asking how we might envision a form of international community that avoids imperial power dynamics. Head’s work critiques universal humanism for its links with Western arrogance, while also reimagining it as a legitimately inclusive foundation from which to confront global inequity.
Follow Us On TwitterMy Tweets
In our new issue we feature a dossier on international organizations and technologies of stateness. In contains essays on Ethiopia and the League of Nations, imperial internationalism in India, constitution drafting manuals, the World Bank in Calcutta, the state and international law, and UN technical assistance in decolonializing states.View entire issue >
Recent Blog Posts
Li Wenliang, Liu Zhiming, Xu Depu, Peng Yinhua, Xia Sisi: these are the names of some of the doctors that have died while treating COVID-19 patients in Hubei Province in China, according to media reports. As of late February, 3,387 health workers in China have reportedly been infected; at least 18 of these have died. Some of the earliest cases of community transmission of the disease in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia have likewise afflicted frontline health workers. Images circulating in the Continue reading →
The following speech was delivered at the plenary—“Political and Revolutionary Imaginaries from Past to Present”—of the 16th Annual Historical Materialism conference held in London on November 9, 2019. When the conference organizers invited me to participate in this plenary some moons ago, I agreed rather hesitantly. What revolutionary imaginaries had the World Tribunal on Iraq developed at the turn of the twenty-first century? Which of the tribunal’s many aspirations, inspirations, and implications could I convey? Did the World Tribunal on Iraq deserve to be called Continue reading →