Preface: What Is Visual Citizenship?

As an organizing concept, “visual citizenship” treats participation in political life as something operating and experienced beyond legal properties and pregiven juridical frames. After all, much of what we know about the relations between citizens—and between citizens and non-citizens—happens from a distance, among common strangers, audiovisually. What we see and hear, how we see and hear, according to whom, and where condition the way people in acute and everyday crises debate meaningfully about how they are governed. Rights talk beyond mere expressions of victimhood is an important theme.

A Tour of the Museum of Regime-Made Disasters

The civil awakening in the Middle East and all over the world reveals more and more facets of regime-made disasters, and the extent to which democracy itself, rather than being their foil, is one of the regime forms wherein such disasters actually take place. This museum, inspired by the Arendtian effort to analyze totalitarian regimes, adopts the widely accepted claim that totalitarian regimes of the kind analyzed by Arendt are a thing of the past, but insists on understanding the disasters afflicting various populations in the world as regime-made ones. The museum follows the way in which such disasters take place and are interlaced in a democratic fiber of life, while being perceived as external to the regime that generates them. This museum is a layout, an outline for visual studies of regime-made disasters and the condition for the emergence of the civil language of revolution.

Refugee Camps of the Western Sahara

The Sahrawi refugee camps, located in southern Algeria close to the border with the Western Sahara, give us an opportunity to question the predominant notions connected to refugee camps. This article builds up an urbanistic and architectural reading of these camps—established more than 35 years ago in the middle of the Sahara—and shows how these spaces have developed into a political project of the refugees. Instead of seeing the camps as a spatial manifestation of the state of exception, this article analyzes the Sahrawi camps through the everyday activities taking place there, showing their political and strategic dimensions. The camps, governed by the refugees themselves, not only allow for a process of social emancipation, but they also prefigure the state still denied them.

Notes from the Field: An Interview with Fred Ritchin

This article considers the various possibilities for citizenship that can be imagined given our highly visual world. An interview with Fred Ritchin, New York University professor and author of After Photography, explores this issue through discussing how the circulation and dissemination of visual imagery may open avenues for dialogue, participation, communication, and understanding. Ritchin draws upon his extensive experience as an editor, curator, and educator to expand on several ideas: the circulation of images of suffering, the boundary between photography and art, and ethical responses engendered as part of a global citizenry.

English Blasphemy

Download PDF England’s blasphemy laws were abolished by an act of Parliament on May 8, 2008. This occurred with remarkably little fanfare, although not before a major parliamentary inquiry in 2002–3 and, prior to that, an attempt by a Muslim man (Mr. Choudhury) to launch a prosecution against Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1990, on the grounds that it blasphemed against the Islamic religion.1 Interpretations of these developments have been strikingly different. Some commentators have viewed them as symptoms of the last gasps of a law whose Continue reading →


This essay provides a historical contextualization of the Universal Declaration’s statement on religious liberty. It suggests that its main components—the stress on the inner dimensions of conscience and belief, as well as the right to change one’s religion—reflected very particular political and intellectual currents in the postwar moment. Article 18 was not the product of an abstract overlapping consensus; instead, it marked a victory for some actors to whom the details of this statement mattered. In this respect, this essay highlights the influence of Charles Malik and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. What these actors did in the context of writing the UDHR was essentially to recast international religious liberty as primarily concerned with the formation of the individual person’s beliefs, rather than the “free exercise” of religion.

Gangster’s Paradise? Framing Crime in Sub-Saharan Africa

Recent human rights and rule of law initiatives pursued by both national governments and international institutions are part of a continent-wide project of liberal reform that has altered the landscape of law and governance in Sub-Saharan Africa. The central questions motivating this article are twofold: how have societal and legal categories of crime changed in Sub-Saharan Africa over the last twenty years, and what role has been played by national institutions such as the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and international tribunals such as the International Criminal Court? Since this article aspires to say something about both the law and popular discourse on crime, it reviews legal decisions as well as African literature and film.

Judith Shklar versus the International Criminal Court

This essay-review revisits political theorist Judith Shklar’s classic Legalism, with an eye to the uses of its arguments in the era of the International Criminal Court. After reviewing her jurisprudence, the essay takes up her defense of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, showing that it is mainly her critical arguments about international criminal law that survive today. Then the essay goes on to examine further features of her doctrines, including the implications of her engagement with the so-called Tokyo trial for Japanese war criminals for the typically postcolonial setting of international criminal law today.