Issue 9.3


In our new issue we feature Jessica Whyte’s piece on Just War, Decolonization and the Geneva Conventions. Also in this issue are essays on humanitarianism, postcolonialism and the fiction of Bessie Head, the international movement for Iranian political prisoners, Mexico’s contribution to International Economic Order, filming force feeding in Guantanamo, and a photo dossier on Asylum/Home. We end with a review essay on the humanitarian conscience.




The "Dangerous Concept of the Just War'': Decolonization, Wars of National Liberation, and the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions

Abstract: In 2002, the North American political theorist Michael Walzer announced the “triumph of just war theory,” which he saw as evidence of moral progress. This paper challenges Walzer’s progressive narrative by turning to the often-acrimonious debates about just and unjust wars during the drafting of the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions. I show that during the International Committee of the Red Cross’s “Diplomatic Conference on the Laws of War” (1974-77) it was the Third World and Soviet states that used the language of Read More »

A Postcolonial Theory of Universal Humanity: Bessie Head's Ethics of the Margins

Abstract: Universal humanity—the idea that human beings are, in some ways, all the same, possessing the same needs and rights—is the guiding principle of humanitarian action. Within postcolonial studies, this universalist philosophy has come under intense scrutiny for its Western bias and neglect of cultural and historical difference. This article explores the tension between humanitarian discourse and postcolonial theory through analysis of Bessie Head’s fiction, asking how we might envision a form of international community that avoids imperial power dynamics. Head’s work critiques universal humanism Read More »

Claiming Human Rights: Iranian Political Prisoners and the Making of a Transnational Movement, 1963–1979

Abstract: This essay examines the transnational movement against prisoner abuse and torture in Pahlavi Iran in the 1960s-1970s. Arguing that the notion of human rights in this era was neither fixed nor stable, it analyzes the encounter between Iranian revolutionaries, students, and intellectuals and international human rights activists and organizations. It argues that the growing prominence of prisoner abuse in Iran provided a rallying point for Iranian dissidents of various political stripes in the years before the 1979 revolution as well as a testing ground Read More »

A Mexican International Economic Order? Tracing the Hidden Roots of the Charter of Economic Rights and

Abstract: In many new histories of global ideas, norms, and institutions—including in recent scholarly treatments of the New International Economic Order—a striking “decolonization divide” has emerged, separating the formally sovereign but economically and politically weak nations of Latin America from the newly independent nations of Africa and Asia. This article uncovers the long history of interventions by the post-revolutionary Mexican state in international economic governance to reveal the overlooked Mexican roots of the NIEO. It argues that by uncovering the longer history of struggles for Read More »

Representing the Disappeared Body: Videos of Force-Feedings at Guantánamo

Abstract: This article focuses on the force-feedings inflicted on Guantánamo detainees and the efforts to make visible their violence visually and legally. It examines three visual representations of the force-feedings: a government video demonstrating the feedings on an absent body; a video produced by the legal charity Reprieve demonstrating the feedings on hip-hop star Yasiin Bey; and the videos recording the actual feedings of hunger striker Abu Wa’el Dhiab, whose legal case first revealed the existence of these videos. The majority of the article centers Read More »

A New Community of Women 1855–2019

[Ed. note] In 2012, the Israeli artist Michal Heiman came across Hugh Welch Diamond’s photograph (ca. 1855) of a patient at the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum in England, and amongst the photographs, found herself looking at a picture of her younger self. This encounter led Heiman to start a photography project looking at the conditions of possibilities for “return”, asking how are our imaginative practices bound up with the process of political recognition. As Sharon Sliwinski asks in her essay included in this issue: “Is Read More »

Return:Asylum (The Dress, 1855–2019)

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The Asylum and its Discontents: Reflections on Michal Heiman

Abstract: Michal Heiman’s project, Return: asylum (the Dress, 1855-2018), consists of photographs of women and men clothed in a dress similar to one worn by women inmates at the former Surrey County Lunatic Asylum in the 1850s. Traversing time, space, gender, race and institutional practices of asylum, the artist takes the viewers on a ride in a time machine that is not a technological devise but a discourse on memory and on owning the future: s/he who wears the dress has the potential to return Read More »

The Woman Who Walks Through Photographs

Abstract: This paper explores Michal Heiman’s creative strategy to imaginatively enter the space of asylum. Her recent project, Return: asylum (the Dress, 1855-2018), offers a new way to extend solidarity to people who have been subjugated by the institution. She actively enlists the public’s help in developing further strategies for connecting with those individuals who have been bereft of legal rights to property, family, or public hearing. This article explores Heiman’s crucial political intervention, which blends creative visual practice with object relations theory.Read More »

Dictates of Conscience in the Humanitarian System

Abstract: This article explores two recent books on the ethics of humanitarian action from the moral perspectives of the practitioner, and the tensions between personal desires to ‘do good’ and actual outcomes for suffering populations. The first work (Hugo Slim, Humanitarian Ethics) defends humanitarianism and prescribes correctives to its unintended negative consequences; the second (Liisa Malkki, The Need to Help) gives voice to Finnish aid workers who seek global connection and wider purpose through their work. Both authors frame humanitarian action in terms of an Read More »