Issue 4.2


hum.5.1_front_smHumanity editorial board member Jan Eckel has organized a terrific symposium on human rights history for our new issue. We are grateful to Dr. Eckel for his generous assistance. The results include his own groundbreaking research on postwar American advocacy, as well as outstanding essays by Johannes Paulmann and Brad Simpson. We have paired this with Robert Vitalis’s subversive and revisionist account of the Bandung conference, an insightful photo essay by Jens Meierhenrich and��Martha Lagace on post-genocide Rwanda, and incisive book reviews by Michael Latham on development and John Wallach on dignity.


The International League for the Rights of Man, Amnesty International, and the Changing Fate of Human Rights Activism from the 1940s through the 1970s

This article explores the trajectory of international human rights organizations between the 1940s and the 1970s. Providing detailed case studies of the International League for the Rights of Man and Amnesty International, it argues that the field of human rights NGOs underwent profound changes during this period. The League never moved beyond a marginal role because of its weak institutional structures, its focus on the United Nations, and because its work placed it at odds with the political scene in the U.S. Amnesty, by contrast, reinvented the techniques of human rights advocacy and saw its endeavors fuelled by a generation of activists eager to transcend earlier forms of civil protest. In the process, human rights NGOs began to have a much larger impact on international relations. This happened only in the 1970s, however, and produced new political dilemmas and contradictions.Read More »

Conjunctures in the History of International Humanitarian Aid during the Twentieth Century

Humanitarian aid has often been a malleable concept covering a broad range of activities. This article focuses primarily on emergency relief. It discusses existing narratives of international humanitarian aid and identifies crucial historical conjunctures during the twentieth century. It argues that neither the history of humanitarian organizations, nor aid as function of political economy, nor the evolution of global humanitarian governance provides a satisfactory historical explanation for the development of humanitarian aid during the twentieth century. Rather than such long-term narratives, the explanation is to be found in the turning points themselves, in historical conjunctures and contingencies. Three such conjunctures are explored: the post-World War I moment, the moment of postcolonial mobilisation, and the global interventionist moment.Read More »

Self-Determination, Human Rights, and the End of Empire in the 1970s

This article explores the intersection between debates about the meaning of human rights and self-determination claims and movements in the 1960s and 1970s. It argues that the human rights politics of the period were an ongoing contest in which alternative conceptions of rights, especially the right of self-determination, emerged from political, ideological, and sometimes even military conflict within and between state bureaucracies, international forums, and NGO boardrooms, with a multiplicity of actors seeking to enlarge or constrain them to suit their own purposes.Read More »

The Midnight Ride of Kwame Nkrumah and Other Fables of Bandung (Ban-doong)

The idea that the First Asian-African Conference in Bandung in 1955, in which the majority of 29 states were outspokenly aligned, was a conference of the non-aligned states or “gave birth” to non-alignment is a kind of Paul Revere’s ride of our postcolonial age. And most of the men representing those states would likely have responded to claims of a unity or alliance of color with blank or uncomprehending stares or else would have smiled politely and moved on. No delegate ever seriously argued that what united peoples of disparate religions, regions, and commitments was race. Color was a fact for some, not for some others, but for no one was it what united them. To the contrary, many rejected the idea. They called it racialism and warned against appealing to it as a dangerous and retrograde step.Read More »

Photo Essay: Tropes of Memory

Despite a burgeoning literature on the macropolitics of social memory, remarkably little is known about the diversity of mnemonic practices in small-scale, living, breathing contexts where violent pasts are to be contended with. The dozen empirical vignettes at the heart of this photo essay provide glimpses of these spheres. Focusing on everyday life in post-genocide Rwanda, we single out tropes of memory that merit careful investigation in situ, there and elsewhere. The empirical vignettes complement what is primarily a methodological argument with closely observed impressions from a country that all too often is rendered in an undifferentiated hue.Read More »

Dignity: The Last Bastion of Liberalism

This essay assesses the resurgent intellectual interest in “dignity,” reviewing recent treatments by four liberal legal and political theorists. The article notes the origins of dignity as “high standing” in Roman, Catholic, and aristocratic discourses, along with its transformation by liberal theorists into a rational tool for accommodating the equality of rights and the hierarchies of virtue for the political ethics of Western societies. The author faults these rehabilitations of “dignity” for minimizing how worldly power in history constitutes ethical prospects and how emphasis upon “dignity” elevates the passivity of moral standing over and against the activity of politics.Read More »

Development at War

Nathan Hodge’s recent book provides important insights into the close relationship between development practice and modern warfare. After September 11, 2001, U.S. foreign policymakers and defense planners came to envision international development as a crucial objective in the pursuit of counterinsurgency and national security. Their efforts in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan also fell victim to false assumptions and serious fallacies. Hodge’s analysis exposes major flaws in U.S. policy, but the pattern he refers to has a much older history, rooted in longstanding visions of modernization and rapid social change.Read More »