Issue 3.2


hum.5.1_front_smAt the heart of the issue is the Humanity editorial collective’s dossier on militarism and humanitarianism, with several contributions on different aspects of the connection, including Dena Plemmons and Robert Albro on anthropologists and ethics in the age of counterinsurgency. Also in this issue is Eleni Coundouriotis’s reflection on human rights history, which treats among other things the famous example of Adam Hochschild on King Leopold, as well as a fascinating essay by Ilana Feldman on Palestinian refugees.


Congo Cases: The Stories of Human Rights History

Coundouriotis proposes that human rights history, which uses the frame of crimes against humanity, is shaped by stories of reading in which the author takes evidence previously ignored or misconstrued and uses it to renarrativize the events, providing a new story with a moral center inflected by human rights. This insight is applied to analyze the recurring motif of the “heart of darkness” in the literature about the Congo. The moral crusade, the redeemer witness and the democratizing movement represent three types of human rights history that attempts to write past this motif.Read More »

The Humanitarian Condition: Palestinian Refugees and the Politics of Living

An exploration of the politics of living with and in a humanitarian condition. Rather than looking at humanitarian responses to moments of crisis, it considers the case of Palestinian refugees—who live in conditions of long-term displacement and who receive assistance from a long-standing humanitarian apparatus—to investigate the forms of political expression that emerge in these conditions. The article explores political values articulated both through rights claims and existential conditions and argue that even as humanitarianism can constrain action in certain ways it also provides mechanisms through which people are active in the world.Read More »

Preface: Militarism and Humanitarianism

Humanity coeditor Nils Gilman introduces the dossier. Read More »

Practicing Ethics and Ethical Practice: Anthropologists and Military Humanitarians

Plemmons and Albro examine anthropological research practice and ethics, in the context of the expanding security regime in the U.S. With particular attention to the perceived value of disciplinary methods and expertise for emerging military humanitarian interventions, for which sociocultural knowledge is deemed crucial, they consider a long-standing disciplinary anxiety about “secret and clandestine” work for the security state. Exploring how anthropological knowledge is fundamentally co-produced with counterparts “in the field,” they emphasize the irreducibility of secrecy as part of research relationships. The article also seeks to sharpen appreciation for ethics as a negotiated feature of disciplinary practice.Read More »

The Gendering of Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

The authors argue that looking at the gendering of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan provides insight into the assumptions, strategies, and anxieties about U.S. involvement in this particular war. One sees in the gendering of counterinsurgency, exemplified most strikingly in the deployment of female engagement teams, an attempt to reframe U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan as a humanitarian, even progressive, mission. Gendering counterinsurgency efforts as a gentler (feminine) option helps to sell the current campaign to a war-weary audience in the U.S. (and allied countries). It is also a way of marking U.S. civilizational superiority—and the attention lavished upon women soldiers deployed in Afghanistan is a significant aspect of this gendered narrative.Read More »

Photo Essay: Militarism and Humanitarianism

This suite of images is drawn from photos published by the U.S. military and military personnel to publicize the community-building, reconstruction, and social welfare projects it has supported in Afghanistan and Iraq, including school programs, medical care, and village-development projects involving women and children. Showcasing the range of current military-led humanitarian efforts taking place within active combat theaters, these photos were taken by ordinary servicemen and servicewomen in the course of duty. Except for one image from a separate source, their publication has been approved by public affairs officers and represents part of the American military's evolving counterinsurgency-related "information operations." Justine Pak played an essential role in organizing this photo essay for the journal.Read More »

Hybrid Warfare and Its Metaphors

An investigation of counterinsurgency as a hybrid model of warfare that enacts targeted killing while supporting the life of the population. Useful to this dual objective are metaphors of infectious disease in the body to characterize the problem of insurgency within a population. Bell first examines how cultural awareness programming is designed to create versatile soldiers who can inflict death while also supporting life. Her discussion then turns to how metaphors of disease, treatment and immunity are posed as efforts to save and strengthen the (social) body alongside the task of defeating insurgency, elucidating the close proximity posited between life and death in hybrid warfare. The paradigm of immunity, as theorized by Roberto Esposito, captures not only this duality between life and death but connects it to the powerful desire to protect self from “other.” Hybrid warfare draws upon the authority and apparent benevolence of medical metaphors to clarify and render urgent the long-term, socially corrective intervention that it proscribes. It lays bare and deepens distinctions between forms of life in global relations and fails to take seriously the opposition encountered.Read More »

Community and Counterinsurgency

Over the past two decades, community development has re-emerged as a central mechanism for delivering aid, particularly in conflict areas. Practitioners view community development as a tool to empower citizens while making state institutions more responsive and accountable. Oppenheim argues that the operational elements that advance these objectives—locally elected village councils, supported by resource transfers and technical assistance from state agencies—have an important latent function: to extend the state’s reach into the village. When injected into an active insurgency, the operations and premises of community development may mirror key elements of civil counterinsurgency. Insurgent organizations may read community development as an effort to contest control of the grassroots.Read More »

From Black Revolution to "Radical Humanism": Malcolm X between Biography and International History

Temkin both reviews Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention and reflects more broadly upon Malcolm X’s political trajectory and human rights activism in the context of American, African-American, and international history. He seeks to analyze the meanings of Malcolm X’s rhetoric, social background, and global ambitions, in particular vis-à-vis the civil rights movement, the geopolitics of the Cold War, and the place of the United States in the wider world. He also focuses on the strengths and limitations of Marable’s approach to Malcolm X’s career and on the distinctions between humanizing Malcolm X and historicizing him. Temkin's essay concludes with some speculations on the implications that Malcolm X’s life and death might have for understanding public affairs today.Read More »