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 Amy Kapczynski’s essay “The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Amy Kapczynski’s essay, “The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism,” is a persuasive and provocative retort to recent claims by Naomi Klein and others that human rights discourse is an impotent weapon against neoliberalism, if not a complement to it. Through the specific example of the human right to medicines guaranteed by law in Continue reading →