Issue 5.2


hum.5.1_front_smThe new issue begins with two major pieces on the history of humanitarianism, including Daniel Cohen’s revelatory investigation of Christian humanitarianism in Palestine; turns to Vanessa Ogle’s insightful article on the “New International Economic Order,” which provides a foretaste of our special issue on the subject coming next spring; continues with David Shneer’s haunting commentary on Soviet photography of the Holocaust; and concludes with our usual array of reviews, notably Bronwyn Leebaw’s consideration of Ruti Teitel’s recent book.


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.Read More »

Elusive Neutrality: Christian Humanitarianism and the Question of Palestine, 1948–1967

This article examines the history of Protestant humanitarian interventions on behalf of Palestinian refugees between 1948 and 1967. Deeply concerned with Arab suffering, Protestant churches organized under the World Council of Churches were also theologically committed to a new “Christian approach to the Jews” in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Commitment to neutrality, however, could not keep politics at bay. Indeed, the hallmark of Protestant humanitarianism in the Middle East was a permanent struggle between claims of justice and impartial benevolence, universal human rights and Christian Zionism, empathy for Palestinian victimhood and identification with Jews as symbols of historical injustice.Read More »

State Rights against Private Capital: The "New International Economic Order" and the Struggle over Aid, Trade, and Foreign Investment, 1962–1981

Starting in the 1960s, Third World countries organized at the United Nations to achieve full economic independence. The “New International Economic Order” (NIEO) movement drafted charters and declarations, which placed the right to control natural resource industries and foreign direct investment squarely in the hands of newly decolonized nation-states. During the 1973 oil crisis, NIEO influence peaked. When debt and conditional loans followed in the wake of 1973, the NIEO’s leverage was removed. Instead of state-based right claims, the 1970s generally saw the triumph of the “last utopia” of individual human rights. It was mirrored by the rise of another anti-statist utopia, neoliberalism.Read More »

Ghostly Landscapes: Soviet Liberators Photograph the Holocaust

In the West, Auschwitz and its gas chambers became a metonym of genocide, but genocide takes place less often in purpose-built death centers than in mundane sites of daily existence, like “killing fields” in Cambodia or by the sides of roads in Rwanda. So too with the Holocaust. In the Soviet Union, the Holocaust was more mundane, integrated into daily life under Nazi occupation. Because of this, the absence documented in Soviet Holocaust liberation photography better reflects the experience of genocide than the human drama of survival captured in American and British photography. In these mundane, haunting, and sublime images, Soviet photographers have unwittingly captured the story of genocide—ghostly landscapes haunted by the dead, not the living.Read More »

From Anti-Politics to Post-Neoliberalism: A Conversation with James Ferguson

This interview with James Ferguson traces his thinking from his groundbreaking The Antipolitics Machine to his newest work on neoliberalism. Ferguson explains how the process of development is above all about building justifications for why more money is needed to fund the next project, thus less about increasing state control or oversight over society than simply about creating more state. Conversely, rather than using the term “neoliberalism” as a political cudgel to condemn structural adjustment policies, Ferguson presses critics to linger over what is actually taking place under post-neoliberal forms of governance.Read More »

Justice, Charity, or Alibi? Humanitarianism, Human Rights, and "Humanity Law"

In Humanity’s Law, Ruti Teitel argues that international humanitarian law and international human rights law have come together to form a novel and distinctive set of norms. Teitel argues further that this new set of norms, which she refers to as “humanity law,” constitutes a “dynamic unwritten constitution” of the contemporary international legal order. Humanity’s Law is not a triumphal narrative of legal progress or of law’s ability to transcend violent conflict, but an intricate reckoning with the possibilities, internal tensions, and uncertainties inherent in contemporary international law. This essay examines her claims and contends that “humanity law,” as analyzed by Teitel, functions simultaneously as a basis for justice, as a framework for charity or rescue, and as an alibi for state-sponsored violence.Read More »

International Legal Fields

This essay reviews three recent collections of international legal scholarship. Demonstrating that all three volumes are organized around the tension between formalism and anti-formalism, the essay argues that no adequate account of contemporary international law can be developed without attending both to its internal normative architecture and to its receptivity to competing extralegal forces. Relying on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, the essay suggests that any such account must necessarily involve a sustained investigation into the formation and operation of “international legal fields.”Read More »

"Democratic Development" in Neoliberal Drag

This review examines the book Contesting Development: Participatory Projects and Local Conflict Dynamics in Indonesia, an impact study of the widely lauded Kecamatan Development Program (KDP). The authors argue that KDP contributes to greater accountability, transparency, civic engagement—especially by previously marginalized populations—and nonviolent conflict resolution in areas where it is operating well, primarily through indirect feedback mechanisms poorly accounted for in the traditional economic metrics for evaluating such programs. The review suggests that the authors remain wedded to a set of neoliberal assumptions about development and insufficiently historicize the program’s origins and role in Indonesian politics.Read More »