Author Archives: Keith David Watenpaugh

About Keith David Watenpaugh

A historian and director of the University of California-Davis Human Rights Initiative and, most recently, an American Council of Learned Societies fellow. He is author of Being Modern in the Middle East (Princeton, 2006) and Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism (California, 2014). His articles appear in the American Historical Review, Social History, Journal of Human Rights, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Chronicle of Higher Education, and Huffington Post. He is the research director of a Carnegie Corporation-supported, Middle East-based initiative for refugee Syrian university students and educators. He codirects the University of California Human Rights Collaboration.

The Middle East in the Making of Modern Humanitarianism

Download the podcastFeed | iTunes | Hipcast | SoundcloudThe First World War and the fall of the Ottoman Empire are defining moments in the political history of the modern Middle East. This narrative is usually told through the lenses of the breakup of empire, the successes and failures of national movements, and the colonial involvement of British and French Mandates in the region. In this episode, Keith Watenpaugh offers a different approach to this story through a critical look at the role of American humanitarian Continue reading →

Between the Sea and the Problem of Humanity:  The Mediterranean’s Refugees and the Humanitarian Reason of Rescue at Sea

Rescues at sea are dangerous and come with great possible cost to those involved.  In this brief essay, I consider why, beyond a simple explanation of the imperative to protect life, civilian sailors rescue refugees at sea, and explore how specific extreme environments and professional identities may interface at the boundaries of humanitarian imagination, thought and action Before MSF and the navies of EU states became more involved in intercepting boatloads of refugees sinking into the Mediterranean, the job of pulling them out of the Continue reading →

Between Communal Survival and National Aspiration: Armenian Genocide Refugees, the League of Nations, and the Practices of Interwar Humanitarianism

While the cause of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire had played an important role in shaping Western attitudes and ideas about humanitarian intervention and national self-determination, the collapse of efforts to create an Armenian state in the wake of genocide and World War I led the nascent League of Nations to elaborate efforts within the repertoire of humanitarianism to preserve the Armenians as a distinct community. Those efforts bring into relief evolving interwar thought and policies about refugees, human trafficking, and the place of international institutions in the protection of civilians. The practical failures of the League’s projects provided a field in which “rights talk” could take place and the modern refugee régime emerge. Continue reading →