Issue 8.1


Our new issue features a series of articles and a dossier, with a moving and thought-provoking set of materials organized by Jean-Philippe Dedieu on Mohamedou Slahi’s imprisonment and Guantánamo photography in between. Our articles revisit U.S. citizenship law and what the memory wars around the Rape of Nanking involved; our dossier provides a series of essays that review Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal’s major works over what was a much-noticed and revealing twentieth-century career.


Can a Citizen Be Sovereign?

Since the Rights of Man were proclaimed to be “inalienable,” irreducible to and undeducible from other right or laws, . . . man appeared as the only sovereign in matters of law as the people was proclaimed the only sovereign in matters of government. —Hannah Arendt1 Targeted killings by drone strikes ordered by the Obama administration have provoked vigorous debate in the United States about the power the executive holds to order the killing of enemy combatants without due process. However, questions regarding the U.S. Read More »

UNESCO and the United Nations Rights of Man Declaration: History, Historiography, Ideology

From the first months of 1947 up to October 1948, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) made a remarkable, and largely misunderstood, effort to directly shape the content of what became the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Although this effort failed in its objectives, the work of UNESCO during this short time (about a year and a half) has been invested with a range of meanings and interpretations Read More »

African Bureaucrats and the Exhaustion of the Developmental State: Lessons from the Pages of the Sudanese Economist

In the popular and scholarly imagination, Sudanese history is framed as a story of successive failed states, war, and destruction. This impression is aided by the fact that with the division of the country into the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan became one of only two states in postcolonial Africa formally partitioned. Additionally, Sudan was embroiled in civil wars for more than two-thirds of its history.1 Given this legacy, is it possible to write of a functional Sudanese Read More »

Debating History and Memory: Examining the Controversy Surrounding Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking

Among English-language audiences, Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking (1997) is one of the better-known books about the Nanking Massacre.1 The Nanking Massacre took place between December 1937 and January 1938 when advancing Japanese troops captured and occupied the Chinese capital. In the roughly six weeks that followed, over a hundred thousand Chinese civilians and disarmed soldiers were killed, and widespread instances of rape, looting, arson, and violence occurred.2 For nonspecialist readers in the United States who had little knowledge of the Massacre, Chang’s work Read More »

Working with the Frames of War

The mood is wrong, the atmosphere stained, and something is odd about the light. These things are not easy to say, and harder to explain, but you can feel them. And now they can be seen. —Robert Hariman1 In the aftermath of 9/11, the American government launched the war on terror in order to impose the prosecution of its foreign policy. From the onset, the war on terror’s powerful visual and verbal narratives made it almost impossible to oppose its rationale and to suggest alternative Read More »

A Lens on Mohamedou Slahi at Guantánamo: A Conversation with Debi Cornwall and Larry Siems

Beginnings Jean-Philippe Dedieu: How did you first become interested in Guantánamo? Larry Siems: I came to this through my human rights work, and I came to human rights work through literature. I have a master’s degree in fine arts in poetry from Columbia. I’ve always been challenged by the idea of how writing and activism intersect and by poetry that makes action urgent and its nature clear. When I moved to California not long after graduate school, I was deeply interested in the American political Read More »

Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play

This photo essay is excerpted from Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play, an investigation of daily life for both prisoners and guards at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where nobody has chosen to live, and where photographs of faces are forbidden by military regulation. Since the first “War on Terror” prisons opened on January 11, 2002, 780 men have been held at “Gitmo,” the vast majority without charge or trial of any kind. As of autumn 2016, most have been cleared and Read More »


To find the practical formulas for this never-ending reconstruction of society is the supreme task of social science. The world catastrophe places tremendous difficulties in our way and may shake our confidence to the depths. Yet we have today in social science a greater trust in the improvability of man and society than we have ever had since the Enlightenment. —Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma (1944) Gunnar Myrdal (1898–1987) was the twentieth century’s most influential social democratic internationalist.1 Throughout his long career—first as economist, then Read More »

The Myrdals' Eugenicist Roots

Kris i Befolkningsfraågen Alva Myrdal and Gunnar Myrdal Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1934 It was the summer of 1934 when Gunnar Myrdal and his wife Alva published Kris i Befolkningsfraågen (The crisis in the population question, hereafter KiB), just as Gunnar, then thirty-five years old, was assuming a seat as a Social Democratic member of the Swedish Parliament.1 As a salvo from the enfant terrible of the Swedish economic establishment, the book was not merely analytical in intent but intended as a political strategy and Read More »

Will Myrdal's America Show Up?

Varning för fredsoptimism Gunnar Myrdal Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1944 In the summer of 1945, Gunnar Myrdal’s “war work” seemed finally complete. Following the Allied victory in Europe, Europa Verlag Zürich printed Warnung vor Friedensoptimismus, a translation from the May 1944 Swedish original Varning för fredsoptimism (Warning against peace optimism).1 Myrdal himself would later use the phrase “my war work” to refer to his much more famous publication of the same year, An American Dilemma, his mammoth examination of America’s race relations framed “in terms Read More »

Gunnar Myrdal's An American Dilemma (1944) as a Swedish Text: A Further Analysis

An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy Gunnar Myrdal New York: Harper & Brothers, 1944 In the fall of 1938, the economist and former member of the Swedish parliament Gunnar Myrdal traveled from Stockholm to New York City with his wife and research collaborator, Alva Reimer Myrdal, their three children, and two nannies.1 He was in the United States to begin work on the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s comprehensive study of black Americans.2 Far from being Myrdal’s own idea, the study was Read More »

Gunnar Myrdal and the Failed Promises of the Postwar International Economic Settlement

An International Economy: Problems and Prospects Gunnar Myrdal New York: Harper and Row, 1956 During his decade of employment as head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (1947–57), Gunnar Myrdal wrote a series of works, of varying length, on the competing aims of economic internationalism and nationalism and the possibility of their reconciliation. The longest and most systematic was An International Economy: Problems and Prospects (1956), which offered a comprehensive overview of international economics in the non-Soviet world. Myrdal’s book was both a Read More »

Welfare World

Rich Lands and Poor: The Road to World Prosperity Gunnar Myrdal New York: Harper and Row, 1958 “Considering that he is Secretary-General of the Economic Commission for Europe and hence immersed in European problems,” one of the early reviewers wrote of the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal’s An International Economy (1956), “one of the striking features . . . is that so much of it is directed toward problems of underdeveloped areas.”1 And just as he completed that work he was already on the road to Read More »

An International Dilemma: The Postwar Utopianism of Gunnar Myrdal's Beyond the Welfare State

Beyond the Welfare State: Economic Planning and Its International Implications Gunnar Myrdal New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960 Gunnar Myrdal’s Beyond the Welfare State appeared in 1960, two years after he delivered the Storrs Lectures on “Economic Planning in the Western Countries” at Yale Law School. Myrdal had become widely known in the United States as the author of An American Dilemma (1944), which had been cited in the landmark 1954 desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education.1 Where An American Dilemma sought to show Read More »

Asian Drama Revisited

Asian Drama: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations, 3 vols. Gunnar Myrdal New York: Pantheon, 1968 In early 1969, the bureaucrats roaming the halls of New Delhi’s Central Secretariat building were consumed by a mounting unease. The turn of the year had seen a spate of violence in villages across India: in Thanjavur, in the nation’s south, a group of Dalit farm workers had been massacred by high-caste landlords, upset by the campaign for higher wages in the wake of bumper rice crops. In Read More »

From Welfare World to Global Poverty

The Challenge of World Poverty: A World Anti-Poverty Program in Outline Gunnar Myrdal New York: Pantheon Books, 1970 Eric Hobsbawm famously described the twentieth century, and lived it, as an Age of Extremes. Gunnar Myrdal, who lived that century no less than Hobsbawm, writing his first piece in 1919 and his last in 1984, offered a different perspective on the era. Where Hobsbawm painted a century of division and violence, wrought primarily between West and East, Myrdal’s was a century divided between the haves and Read More »