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.
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In our new issue we feature Samantha Balaton-Chrimes’s essay on decolonizing global solidarity. Also in this issue are essays on the Cold War history of human rights, humanitarian governance, human rights and population control, and the visual politics of maternal mortality. We end with review essays on human rights in Colombia and the political ethics of doing good.View entire issue >
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This post is part of a symposium on Joseph Massad’s essay “Against Self-Determination.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Self-determination has been impressively well studied by international jurists, political philosophers, and, more latterly, as a renascent source of inquiry for historians. Joseph Massad’s work contributes to what is a daunting field, and also, interacts with the more austere scholarly terrain on the subversive functioning of the discourse. It also, more obliquely, confirms the salience of the recent pursuit of more globally oriented 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. 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 →