The “Great Doctrine of Human Rights”: Articulation and Authentication in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. Antislavery and Women’s Rights Movements

Angelina Grimké, the abolitionist and women’s rights reformer from South Carolina, faced a paradox in 1837. Having recently embarked on a successful antislavery speaking tour with her sister Sarah, both women had been derided for addressing audiences of women and men. The sisters’ gradual awakening to the tenets of antislavery—influenced by their earlier experiences on the Grimké family plantation, combined with years of personal anxiety in the face of the restrictive separate spheres ideology—led them to find equivalences between abolitionism and women’s rights. To justify Continue reading → Continue reading →

Humanitarianism Was Never Enough: Dorothy Thompson, Sands of Sorrow, and the Arabs of Palestine

If governments get the idea that they can expropriate their citizens and turn them loose on the kindness of the rest of the world, the business will never end. A precedent will be created; a formula will have been found. —Dorothy Thompson, “Escape in a Frozen World,” Survey Graphic, 1939 “Politics,” said Aristotle, “is the art of discerning what is good for mankind.” The problem of the Arab refugee can make or break support for the west in the most critical strategical area, economically and Continue reading → Continue reading →

Life, Story, Violence: What Narrative Doesn’t Say

“Go ahead and torture me. It will take my death to make me talk, and for your information I’m sorry for every bit of cooperation I have offered in the past,” I said. “First of all, your cooperation was achieved by force. You didn’t have a choice. Nor will you in the future: I am going to make you talk,” ——— said. —Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Guantánamo Diary To name, to give names that it will on occasion be forbidden to pronounce, such is the originary Continue reading → Continue reading →

On Vernacular Rights Cultures and the Political Imaginaries of Haq

Around the globe, we are witnessing multitudinous struggles over rights. Several of these are collective struggles by marginal and dispossessed groups over what Walter Mignolo has termed “life rights” with some resisting precarity and dispossession heralded in by neoliberal developmentalism and its championing of privatization of natural resources: mountains, minerals, forests, rivers and streams; while others are struggling to redefine the substantive content of existing formal constitutional guarantees.1 The key question this essay asks is: How do we conceptually capture these rights struggles? In South Continue reading → Continue reading →


As the name for one who flees (fugere) from danger to a space of protection, the term refugee names a specific position in space and time: a past emergency leads to a dislocated present under the threat of harm, propelling one’s flight to find refuge toward a future elsewhere. Its shadow is not only the term migrant but also fugitive, one who flees from the law, a reminder that persons move and are moved between regimes of legality and illegality.1 Under the names of asylum Continue reading → Continue reading →

On Humanitarian Architecture: A Story of a Border

Many contemporary refugee camps are located in undeveloped border areas of host countries. States providing asylum are often unwilling to integrate refugees into the economy or social structure and maintain these outposts as parallel systems, often relying upon international aid to maintain them. The grounds that they inhabit often represent edge conditions, between competing entities and interests. The well-trod idea that they represent forms of extraterritoriality, while perhaps useful in theory, can be misleading in reality. While certain refugee contexts must be understood precisely as Continue reading → Continue reading →

Beyond Europe, Borders Adrift

“Quite frankly, I don’t remember whether we committed suicide that night or not.”1 Borges’s imaginative realism evokes the surrealist nonchalance of Italian and European Union (EU) politicians as they recursively chase an immigration agreement with Libya.2 Such an agreement, seeking to contain purportedly unwanted African emigration, was most recently formalized in February 2017. It has been resurfacing on the European horizon since 2004, when “Leader of the Revolution” Muammar Gaddafi was a sought-after business partner, and then again in 2012, following his demise. Italian and Continue reading → Continue reading →

The Human Costs of Outsourcing Deportation

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of Central Americans have sought asylum in the United States. Most of them are from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, the three countries that compose the Northern Triangle, one of the most violent regions in the world. Rather than providing Central Americans humanitarian assistance or a place of refuge, the United States—first under Barack Obama and now under Donald J. Trump—increased its detention capacity and expedited deportations. In fiscal year 2014 alone, U.S. Border Patrol officers apprehended more than Continue reading → Continue reading →

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement Home Raid before Church

Saturday, we went out to a picnic. Sunday, we were going to go to church. On Sunday morning around 8:30, they knocked on the door really hard. They called from outside: “Maria Lopez, this is immigration. We need to talk to you.” Maria didn’t have nothing to fear, so she went down. They asked, “Does your husband live here?” —Vern, Guatemalan deportee1 Vern went downstairs and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents at his door handcuffed him and put him in their Continue reading → Continue reading →

Refusing Refuge at the United States–Mexico Border

Contemporary social relations at the United States–Mexico border kill the legal fiction that distinguishes between politically motivated refugees and economically motivated immigrants, a distinction fundamental to liberal governmentalities. The border is where refugee, immigrant, green-card holder, and other legal categories become occupied, become transformed, and are destroyed. Its subjects may become sites for a refusal of liberal governmentalities—rooted in long-standing practices of border life, escaping the law, and normative accounts of resistance in academic circles. They may birth a sense of autonomy or defiance rather Continue reading → Continue reading →