Anthropology and Humanitarianism – Reading by a Historian

Miriam Ticktin, “Transnational Humanitarianism”, Annual Review of Anthropology 43 (2014). This is a useful review article on how anthropologists have studied humanitarianism since the late 1980s. It provides valuable insight into the epistemology of the discipline but also raises questions which may interest others, such as historians like myself. One of Ticktin’s main contentions is that the study of humanitarianism was central to a shift in legal and medical anthropology, from analysing cross-cultural differences to a concern with the universal through the particuluar focus on suffering subjects. In the wake of decolonization, she suggests, this turn gave anthropology a new moral legitimation following criticism in the 1960s and 1970s of its entanglement with colonialism. We may ask whether the resulting kinship between anthropologists and humanitarians perhaps also has an analogy in the role historians wish to play when they study humanitarianism.

From Ticktin’s review of the recently literature, we see a move away from this emphatic engagement of the 1990s to a sometimes severe criticism of humanitarianism in present day anthropological writings. She asks (and historians need to ask themselves the same question, I believe) from what moral, political or other position we criticise those morally driven movements and actions. What is our role when we write, for example, about the “humanitarian aid industry”; the negative consequences of living in refugee camps; the self-interests of those humanitarians who outwardly engage to “save” others; or the implication of humanitarianism with other forces such as government domination over ethnic minorities, military activities or economic interests? As scholars, we cannot stop being critical but we should perhaps also reflect on the positions we are thereby occupying.

US Marine CH-53 Sea Stallion deliver a sling load of wheat donated by the people of Australia, Somalia 1993 (Photo: PHCM Terry Mitchell) http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Aus_wheat_in_Somalia.jpg

Operation RESTORE HOPE, Somalia 1993

(Photo: PHCM Terry Mitchell)

Lastly, Ticktin rightly emphasizes the blurring of boundaries of humanitarianism, i.e. the overlap between humanitarian relief, human rights, development, and humanitarian intervention. She claims that the delimitations are breaking down with the overwhelming growth of the humanitarian aid industry in recent years. From a historical perspective (see my take on the blurred history of humanitarian aid in Humanity 4/2 (2013), this is no surprise. To my knowledge, though, we do not have a careful study of how these boundaries were drawn over time. Ticktin’s review may serve as a reminder to pursue further historical investigation not only of the political in and around humanitarianism but also of the changing epistemology of scholarship on humanitarianism, and the way both interact. This is what a historian takes away from reading a most welcome review of the recent anthropological literature.

Journal for Human Rights: Special Issue on “Human Rights and Violence”

The Journal of Human Rights/Zeitschrift für Menschenrechte (zfmr) is a multidisciplinary quarterly journal, which publishes articles concerning the issues of human rights in English and German. Its aim is to serve as an interdisciplinary forum for the public discussion and social-theoretic reflection of questions of human rights. The journal reaches out especially to scholars working in all fields of political science, history, philosophy, sociology, and legal theory as well as politicians, policy makers and decision makers in politics, economy, and civil society. It seeks to intensive significantly the debate about human rights in political science and in related disciplines and offers wide-ranging approaches to the subject including both theoretic and empirical perspectives.

zfmr

The main objective of the Journal of Human Rights is “to make a significant scholarly contribution to the theory of human rights and enrich and expand discourses about rights in practical political, economic, and social contexts. The journal is committed to the systematic development of the human rights subfield in political science and to the broadening the debate on human rights at all levels.”

Its recent issue focuses on the topic of “Human Rights and Violence” and contains a broad variety of articles from different disciplines. You can have a look at the abstracts of all contributions @:http://www.zeitschriftfuermenschenrechte.de/

In this issue I have published a contribution on the emergence and limits of the human rights regime after 1945 with a special reference to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 in the colonial context. Continue reading

New publication on the history of humanitarianism in the Middle East and North Africa

The research program “Humanitarian Policy Group” at the British research institute ODI (Overseas Development Institute) in London has recently published the first results of its project on “The global history of humanitarian action”, focusing on the history of humanitarian action in the Middle East and North Africa.

This study, edited by Eleanor Davey and Eva Svoboda, offers interesting insights into both the still unexplored history of humanitarianism in the Arab World and its important links with urgent questions of the present time.

The publication can be found and downloaded at: http://www.odi.org/publications/8787-history-humanitarian-middle-east-mena-zakat-palestine-displacement-lebanon-yemen

 

Special journal issue on solidarity and transnational activism

Some blog readers may be interested in a recent themed issue of the European Review of History, dedicated to ‘Transnational Solidarities and the Politics of the Left, 1890-1990′ and jointly edited by Charlotte Alston and Daniel Laqua (the author of this post). You can access the contributions via this link. While the emphasis is neither on humanitarianism nor on human rights as such, many of the articles address issues that are connected to these phenomena. As a whole, the contributions raise a number of questions that are highly relevant when analysing humanitarian efforts and human rights campaigns within their wider historical context.

  • How do groups, organisations and individuals frame their transnational campaigns? As many of the contributors to this journal issue show, actors often adopted a language that evoked specific rights or liberties, for instance when denouncing ‘despotism’ abroad. In some instances activists stressed their solidarity with a specific cause while also casting their actions as humanitarian (e.g. West German activists who undertook practical work in the Sandinistas’ Nicaragua).
  • What kind of mechanisms can activists draw upon when seeking to mobilise people and organise efforts across national borders? What communication channels do they use? The contributions cover a repertoire – from pamphlets and letter campaigns to broadcasts – that will be familiar to anyone studying humanitarianism or human rights activism.
  • To what extent was the construction of a specific cause as ‘transnational’ or ‘global’ a constituent element of specific campaigns? In many cases, it is necessary to juxtapose the rhetoric of a ‘solidarity beyond borders’ with their limitations and constraints. For instance, several authors shed light on the ways in which transnational campaigns were tied to local aspirations and desires. Continue reading

CfA: Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA)

 

Academy Leaders:   

Fabian Klose (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz)

Johannes Paulmann (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz)

Andrew Thompson (University of Exeter)

in co-operation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva)

and with support by the German Historical Institute London

Venues:                  

Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz

and Archives of the International Committee of Red Cross Geneva

Date:                       13-24 July 2015

Deadline:                31 December 2014

Information on:      http://hhr.hypotheses.org/ and http://imperialglobalexeter.com/

The international Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy (GHRA) offers research training to advanced PhD candidates and early postdocs. It combines academic sessions at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz and the Imperial and Global History Centre at the University of Exeter with archival sessions at the Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. The Research Academy addresses early career researchers who are working in the related fields of humanitarianism, international humanitarian law, peace and conflict studies as well as human rights covering the period from the 18th to the 20th century. It supports scholarship on the ideas and practices of humanitarianism in the context of international, imperial and global history thus advancing our understanding of global governance in humanitarian crises of the present.

Exeter    IEG    ICRC       ghil

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Conference Report “Humanitarianism and Changing Cultures of Cooperation”

Christine Unrau, Käte Hamburger Kolleg, Centre for Global Cooperation
Research, Essen/Universität Köln
E-Mail: <unrau@gcr21.uni-due.de>

Humanitarianism – as a concept and as a practice – has become a major factor in world society: It channels an enormous amount of resources and serves as an argument for different kinds of interference into the “internal affairs” of a country. It is therefore a fertile testing ground for successful and unsuccessful cooperation across borders. At
the same time, humanitarian action is a form of cooperation that is rooted in cultures of gift-giving, even though they are sometimes exploited for strategic aims.

Against this backdrop, the Centre for Global Cooperation Research, in
cooperation with the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities
(KWI), organized the conference “Humanitarianism and Changing Cultures
of Cooperation” from June 5-7, 2014. As suggested in the title, the aim
of the conference was to shed light both on humanitarianism, its
ambivalences and dilemmas, and its relevance for questions of global
cooperation.

Presenters came from the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway,
Germany and Uganda. Among the speakers and audience there were both
junior researchers and internationally renowned scholars, some of them
with a long experience both as academics and practitioners.

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Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA)

We, Fabian Klose (IEG Mainz), Johannes Paulmann (IEG Mainz), and Andrew Thompson (University of Exeter), are happy to announce that, in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva), we are starting the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) in July 2015.

Exeter      IEG      ICRC

This international Research Academy will offer research training to a group of advanced international PhD candidates and early postdoctoral scholars selected by the steering committee. It will combine academic sessions at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz and the Imperial and Global History Centre at the University of Exeter with archival sessions at the Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. The Research Academy is open to early career researchers who are working in the related fields of humanitarianism, humanitarian law, peace and conflict studies as well as human rights covering the period from the 18th to the 20th centuries. It supports scholarship on the ideas and practices of humanitarianism in the context of international, imperial and global history thus advancing our understanding of global governance in humanitarian crises of the present.

The official Call for Applications will be soon published here on http://hhr.hypotheses.org/ and on http://imperialglobalexeter.com/, so if you are interested in applying keep following our blogs!

Fabian Klose                         Johannes Paulmann                        Andrew Thompson

Conference Panel “The Congress of Vienna and the Slave Trade – Religion, International Relations and Humanitarianism”

As described in one of my earlier posts the Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz successfully applied for the panel “The Congress of Vienna and the Slave Trade -Religion, International Relations and Humanitarianism” at the international conference “The Vienna Congress and Its Global Dimensions.”, which takes place from Thursday 18th to Monday 22nd September 2014 at the University of Vienna.

Here are the abstracts our today’s panel papers.

Introduction:

When evaluating the Congress of Vienna of 1814/15, historians traditionally concentrate on the negotiations to redraw the political map of Europe and on the establishment of an order meant to ensure peace on the continent in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars. However, the implications of the congress went far beyond the European scope and were directly linked to manifold global issues such as the trans-Atlantic slave trade, one of the burning issues of the time. By signing the “Déclaration des 8 Cours, relative à l’Abolition Universelle de la Traite des Nègres” on 8 February 1815 the representatives of the major European powers established for the first time in history a humanitarian norm in international law. The aim of the proposed panel is to investigate the miscellaneous entanglements of this norm-setting process by focusing on the role of religion and religious actors, emerging humanitarianism, international relations and the impact of abolition on the process of Latin-American independence.

Slavetrade

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Q&A: What Can Red Cross Records Say About History of Humanitarianism & Human Rights?

Cross-posted from http://imperialglobalexeter.com/

15/09/14

An Imperial & Global Forum Interview

Professor Richard Toye (RT) interviews Centre Director Andrew Thompson (AT). Professor Thompson recently returned from an archival visit to the ICRC and would like to thank Jean-Luc Blondel and his colleagues for their assistance and guidance.

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RT: Andrew, you’ve recently come back from Geneva, where you’ve been doing some archival research. What were you looking at and why?

AT: I was looking at two sets of files in the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross that have not yet been publicly released. The first on the Nigeria-Biafran War – a watershed in the history of the ICRC as well as a conflict that has been aptly described as the “crucible of modern humanitarianism”. I hope to be the first scholar to reconstruct in detail what one of the largest post-war relief operations actually looked and felt like on the ground. Second, I was looking at their files related to Aden as part of a parallel interest in the relationship between humanitarianism and human rights and the ICRC’s work on behalf of political detainees. Aden brought to a head many issues regarding the status of such detainees that had been simmering for several years.

RT: Stephanie Decker has recently suggested that historians need to be more explicit about how and why they use archives in order to help explain their work to people in other disciplines.[1] What are the advantages of this kind of evidence for understanding the problems of humanitarianism? Continue reading

Leibniz-Journal: Issue on Peace and Conflicts

The Leibniz Institut of European History (IEG) Mainz is member of the Leibniz Association, which connects 89 independent research institutions that range in focus from the natural, engineering and environmental sciences via economics, spatial and social sciences to the humanities.

The recent issue of the Leibniz-Journal focuses on the most relevant topic of peace and conflicts in history, international relations and international law. The articles deal with a broad variety of themes reaching from the First World War and the Versailles post-war order to the culture of commemorating war and to most recent conflicts of the 21st century such as in the Ukraine.

csm_Leibniz_Journal_02_2014_9b23d32a08

Additionally the contribution of Mounia Meiborg discusses critically the concept of humanitarian intervention by referring to research projects at different Leibniz Institutes, including my own about the history of humanitarian intervention here at the IEG Mainz.

If you are interested in reading the article, you will find it @:

http://www.leibnizgemeinschaft.de/fileadmin/user_upload/

downloads/Presse/Journal/14_2_Konflikte/Im_Namen_der_Humanitaet_02_2014_WEB.pdf

The ICRC Archives is Opening its Records from 1966-1975

Dr. Jean-Luc Blondel, Head of the Archives and Information Management Division, International Committee of the Red Cross

Cross-posted from http://imperialglobalexeter.com/

25/08/14

Biafra ICRCNigeria. Biafra conflict. M’Baise province (team 16). Arrival of relief supplies. Public 1969 © CICR / WITH, R.

Since its founding in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been aware of the importance of keeping a record of its work and of its legacy – in the form of paper and audiovisual archives – to preserve the memories and knowledge of its past and to lay the foundation for its current and future work. Over time, the organization has amassed an outstanding and unique collection that encompasses its own history as well as the history of international humanitarian law and humanitarian action in general.

In January 1996, the ICRC decided to open its archives to the public in broad chronological sections at a time. By shortening the protective embargo on its archives, the ICRC was able to open the 1951-1965 records in 2004, thereby adding to the sources in its collection available for consultation by the public. From January 2015, the 1966-1975 archives will also be open to outside researchers. Continue reading

Conference: The Congress of Vienna and Its Global Dimension

On the occasion of the bicentenary of the Congress of Vienna, the Association of Latin American and Caribbean  Historians (ADHILAC) is organizing the international conference “The Congress of  Vienna and its Global Dimension”. The central aim of the conference is to investigate the various impacts of the congress of 1814/15 in different parts of the world on various entangled issues. The conference is kindly hosted by the  Institute of History and the Historical Studies Library at the University of  Vienna, and takes place from Thursday 18th to Monday 22nd September 2014. The conference languages are English and Spanish.

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For all further information on the conference see:

http://www.congresodeviena.at/

The Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz successfully applied for a conference panel on the topic “The Congress of Vienna and the Slave Trade -Religion, International Relations and Humanitarianism”. The aim of this panel is to investigate the importance of the international declaration on the abolition of the slave trade in its global perspective by focusing on the role of religion and religious actors, emerging humanitarianism, and international relations. Continue reading

EGO Article on Decolonization

The age of decolonization is of crucial importance for our understanding of today’s world. By dissolving colonial rule around the world this process led to the emergence of new sovereign states, thereby permanently changing international relations and international law. It is especially the third phase of decolonization which is the one most closely associated with the term “decolonization” in the present and which refers to the end of European colonial rule after 1945. The process of the dissolution of the European overseas empires had a profound effect on the course of international history during the 20th century. This process occurred relatively quickly given that colonial rule had existed in some cases for a number of centuries. Only after just 30 years, from 1945 to 1975, all the colonial empires had disappeared from the global map.

This transformation proceeded by no means linearly or according to a set pattern. There were considerable differences between the various world regions, with cases of peaceful transition as well as extremely violent wars of decolonization. The colonial policies and strategic aims of the colonial powers and the strength of the respective anticolonial movements were the decisive factors. Additionally the Cold War confrontation and the growing importance of international organizations such as the United Nations were central aspects of the international context in which the third phase of decolonization occurred and they had a decisive effect on that process.

Concerning this international context various contributions on hhr has already linked the dissolution of European colonial empires with the debates on universal human rights as well as humanitarianism. Continue reading

New Issue of Humanity

HUMANITY VOLUME 5, ISSUE 2

The 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.

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The Global Anti-Apartheid Movement, 1946-1994

Dr. Nicholas Grant, American Studies, University of East Anglia

Cross-posted from http://imperialglobalexeter.com/

15/07/14

Last month saw the publication of the Radical History Review’s special issue on ‘The Global Anti-Apartheid Movement’. Appearing on the 20th anniversary of South African democracy, the issue contains articles, roundtables and review pieces that explore a range of transnational connections that shaped political opposition to white supremacy in South Africa. As editors Lisa Brock, Alex Lichtenstein and Van Gosse comment in their introduction, “in seeking contributions to this issue, we made a deliberate effort to give the truly global nature of the movements in solidarity with southern Africa their due.”[1]

Radical History

The Radical History Review Special Issue on ‘The Global Antiapartheid Movement’ No. 119 (Spring, 2014)

Whilst activism in the US and Britain continues to dominate much of the scholarship on the international anti-apartheid movement, this special issue makes an important effort to move beyond this occasionally restricting narrative. The articles within the issue therefore address different forms of activism in a number of diverse geographical contexts. For example, Jerry Dávila examines how black civil rights activists in Brazil were influenced by and drew upon anti-apartheid agitation in South Africa; Alex Lichtenstein’s interview with Sietse Bosgra sheds light on the Dutch anti-apartheid movement and its links to anticolonial liberation movements throughout Africa; whilst Teresa Barnes broadens the definition of the global ‘anti-apartheid’ struggle in her gendered analysis of activist networks forged between American radicals involved in the women’s health movement and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). In addition to this, Scott Laderman adds a fascinating new perspective on the relationship between sport and the anti-apartheid movement by examining the responses of professional surfers from around the world to calls to boycott South African events on the world tour in the 1980s. Continue reading