Symposium: Human Shields

This symposium brings together six scholars to discuss Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini’s Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire. It includes a response essay from Gordon and Perugini. Their book provides a startling new take on the history of war, morality, and law. It describes the use of human shields in key historical and contemporary moments across the globe, demonstrating how the increasing weaponization of human beings has made the position of civilians trapped in theaters of violence more precarious and their lives more expendable. They show how the law facilitates the use of lethal violence against vulnerable people while portraying it as humane, but they also reveal how people can and do use their own vulnerability to resist violence and denounce forms of dehumanization.

Human Shields has been shortlisted for the Susan Strange Best Book Prize 2021, British International Studies Association.

 

CONTENT

Unsettling Effects of the Human Shield Concept

This essay is part of a symposium on Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini’s Human Shields. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini’s Human Shields is arranged as a composition of twenty two tableaux. Each vividly explores distinctive practices of human shielding by excavating diverse types of archival sources—official documents, personal correspondence, memoirs, news media, scholarly works, novels, videogames, and more. The succession of these tableaux occurs mostly in chronological order beginning with the American Civil War, and its Read More »

History of People in the Line of Fire

This essay is part of a symposium on Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini’s Human Shields. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. My first encounter with the concept of human shielding was in an interview I conducted with Majdi Abed Rabbo in Jabaliya, a neighborhood in Gaza City in February 2009. I was a member of the National Lawyers’ Guild fact-finding mission to Gaza following Israel’s first large scale offensive against the tiny coastal enclave—also known as “Operation Cast Lead.” Atop a pile Read More »

Human Shields and Distributions of Killability

This essay is part of a symposium on Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini’s Human Shields. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire starts with the story of student Rachel Corrie, crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer as she tried to prevent the demolition of houses in the West Bank by putting herself in the way. Corrie, a civilian, was killed in a manner that many of us will find difficult Read More »

Human Shields, Progress, and Agency on the Roof

This essay is part of a symposium on Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini’s Human Shields. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire, is a detailed and effective mapping exercise introducing the reader to a growing field of legal and political interactions that center on the unstable dichotomy between killing and protecting civilians in war. Each of its 22 short chapters meticulously contextualizes a particular incident, a set of stories or an interface Read More »

Human Shields and the Politics of Humanity

This essay is part of a symposium on Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini’s Human Shields. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. It is a real pleasure to comment on this excellent book on the history, law, and politics of human shields. Throughout the book, Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini argue that the human shield brings into relief many of the political and social dynamics of our societies. The book throws light on a humanity that is always internally-riven and hierarchically-ordered. Humans, the Read More »

A Commentary on Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire

This essay is part of a symposium on Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini’s Human Shields. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. A few minutes before midnight on May 1, 2011, President Barak Obama went on television to announce that the nation’s most wanted man was dead. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who orchestrated the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 that killed almost three thousand people, now lay in a watery grave in an undisclosed location. “Justice has been done,” Obama said. Read More »

Responding to the Symposium

This essay is part of a symposium on Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini’s Human Shields. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. We are honoured by Noura Erakat’s, Lisa Hajjar’s, Pablo Kalmanovitz’s, Karin Loevy’s, Jessica Whyte’s, and Maja Zehfuss’s engagement with our book. We would like to begin by thanking them all for taking the time to read the manuscript and for offering really insightful criticism which has, in many respects, helped us to further articulate the book’s arguments. Noura Erakat asks why Read More »

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