New Book by Antonio de Lauri (ed.): The Politics of Humanitarianism: Power, Ideology and Aid

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Despite its idealistic origins and rhetoric, humanitarianism has increasingly been seen as becoming economic enterprise and a political tool for controlling territories and governing international relations. But one has to ask how positions within the spectrum of humanitarian action are influenced by different epistemologies and applications of international law. What is the complex relationship between values and practice? What is humanitarian action intended to be and what happens on the ground?

In his edited volume, Antonio de Lauri has gathered authors from a variety of disciplines to provide a comprehensive critique of the humanitarian enterprise. Combining international case studies with critical theoretical evaluations, and including chapters on international aid, refugees, childhood and women’s rights, Antonio de Lauri’s edited book offers a critical analysis of the contemporary humanitarian system.

 

de Lauri The Politics of Humanitarianism

 

Antonio de Lauri, Ph.D., is assistant professor of anthropology and cultures and societies of the Middle East at the University of Milano-Bicocca. Among others, he was awarded fellowships at the Colombia University in New York and at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin (as Rechtskulturen fellow of Humboldt University and the Institute for Advanced Studies). Antonio de Lauri’s specializing fields are in legal anthropology and Afghan studies.

The book is: Antonio de Lauri (ed.), The Politics of Humanitarianism: Power, Ideology and Aid, London: I.B.Tauris 2016.

New book: The Emergence of Humanitarian Intervention

Fabian Klose (ed.), The Emergence of Humanitarian Intervention. Ideas and Practice from the Nineteenth Century to the Present, Cambridge 2016.

How should the international community react when a government transgresses humanitarian norms and violates the human rights of its own nationals? And where does the responsibility lie to protect people from such acts of violation? In this new volume scholars from various disciplines investigate some of the most complex and controversial debates regarding the legitimacy of protecting humanitarian norms and universal human rights by non-violent and violent means. Charting the development of humanitarian intervention from its origins in the nineteenth century through to the present day, the book surveys the philosophical and legal rationales of enforcing humanitarian norms by military means, and how attitudes to military intervention on humanitarian grounds have changed over the course of three centuries. Drawing from a wide range of disciplines, the authors lend a fresh perspective to contemporary dilemmas using case studies from Europe, the United States, Africa and Asia.

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New Report on Red Cross Fundamental Principles: A critical historical perspective

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CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / L. Lehongre

For more than half a century, the Fundamental Principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality have underpinned the global humanitarian work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. But how have these principles evolved since their codification in 1965, and to what extent have they been adapted for modern day conflict and emergency contexts? Are certain principles more ‘valuable’ than others, and what can the successes, failures and controversies of the past teach us about the future of humanitarian work?

These are just some of the thought-provoking questions raised in a new report: Connecting with the Past: The Fundamental Principles in Critical Historical Perspective. The report, a collaboration between the ICRC, University of Exeter and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, reflects the debates and key points raised by eminent academics, historians and humanitarians who attended a symposium at ICRC headquarters in Geneva in September, 2015. The event and related report, examine five significant periods of history, starting with the founding of the Red Cross in 1865 and ending with the post 9/11 era and the many unprecedented and complex humanitarian challenges that have arisen throughout.

Conference on the history of slavery in global perspective, Mainz 14 January 2016

On Thursday 14 January 2016 there will be an interesting conference on the global history of slavery at the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz. Among other speakers Orlando Patterson will give an evening lecture on “Slavery: Ancient, Modern and Contemporary”.

For further information see http://www.adwmainz.de/fileadmin/adwmainz/veran16/2016_01_14_Antike_Sklaverei.pdf

New Special Issue on “Humanitarianism”

Maria Framke and Joël Glasman have recently edited a special issue on “Humanitarianism” for the German historical journal “Werkstatt.Geschichte”.

Contributions in both English and German by Semih Çelik, Alexandra Pfeiff, Heike Wieters and Florian Hannig shed light on different aspect of humanitarian action in the international shpere in the nineteenth and twentieh century and promise new insights into the global history of humanitarianism:

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Editorial by Maria Framke, Joël Glasman and the editorial staff

Semih Çelik: Between History of Humanitarianism and Humanitarianization of History. A Discussion on Ottoman Help for the Victims of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1852

Alexandra Pfeiff: Das Chinesische Rote Kreuz und die Rote Swastika Gesellschaft. Eine vergleichende Perspektive auf chinesischen Humanitarismus

Heike Wieters: Krisen, Kompromisse, Kalter Krieg. Die amerikanische NGO CARE und die Anfänge humanitärer Nahrungsmittelhilfe in Ägypten, 1954-1958

Florian Hannig: Mitleid mit Biafranern in Westdeutschland. Eine Historisierung von Empathie

For further information on the volume “Humanitarismus”, volume 68 (2015), see http://www.hsozkult.de/journal/id/zeitschriftenausgaben-9337 or the link of the Journal “Werkstatt.Geschichte” @ http://www.werkstattgeschichte.de/

New GHRA Webpage

The new homepage of the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) is now online!

Here you find all news regarding the GHRA such as recent Call for Applications, information on GHRA Participants, the Online Atlas on Humanitarianism and Human Rights as well as YouTube Videos of the GHRA 2015.

webpage ghra

Enjoy exploring: http://ghra.ieg-mainz.de/

 

Keep in mind: The second Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) 2016 call for applications closes on 31 December 2015.

New Publication: Robert Brier’s Inspiring Article on the Recent Historiography on Human Rights

JEH2015Robert Brier’s inspiring article Beyond the Quest for a “Breakthrough”: Reflections on the Recent Historiography on Human Rights has been published in the European History Yearbook 2015 and is available in open access.

Abstract: Human rights have become a central object of international and global history, with research focusing on the question where the origins of the central position of human rights language in our own time lie. The aim of this article is to take stock of this debate and discuss possible future avenues of research. The existing literature has shown, the article argues, that the 1970s were a crucial time for the rise of human rights, but it also warns against declaring this decade or any other time the definite breakthrough for human rights. Underlining how human rights have always been influenced by their past, discussing how tenuous the international position of human rights remains well into our own time and exposing different meanings human rights acquired historically, the article concludes that the identification of multiple chronologies of post-war human rights history and a focus on the great variety of human rights vernaculars provide more promising avenues along which to push this project ahead than the quest for an elusive human rights breakthrough.

Dr. Robert Brier is LSE Fellow in International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Humanitarian Ethics – Berlin Colloquium on Contemporary History

From Rights to Favour? Didier Fassin on the ‘Moral Economy of Asylum in Contemporary Society’

Some notes by Johannes Paulmann (IEG, Mainz)

“Refugees Welcome” – Portraits of refugees and volunteers as part of a rally, 3rd Oct. 2015, Vienna, Mariahilferstraße, photo: © Bwag/Commons, CCBY-SA-4.0

The anthropologist and sociologist Didier Fassin (Princeton) opened the 21st Berlin Colloquium on Contemporary History at the Einstein Forum, Potsdam, on 3 December 2015. In his public lecture Fassin analysed the recent shift in representing individual refugees and the legitimacy of their claims – a shift, as he explained, from a right to asylum to granting asylum as a favour. How are we to explain the accompanying changes in recognition rates and in the manner of accepting refugees?

Fassin sees the convergent logics of two developments at play. On the one side, the political economy regarding immigration changed during the 1970s. Until then workers from abroad were invited and welcomed into an expanding west European economy. With the onset of economic crisis and the slowing down of growth, immigrants were regarded as superfluous in the labour market. However, this perspective is not a sufficient explanation. It took also, on the other side, a change in terms of moral economy, the logic of which shifted from a matter of compassion and admiration for those persecuted to suspicion and hostility towards immigrants during the 1990s when the Cold War ended, the control of borders within the EU was abolished, far right movements rose, and the social integration of refugees or migrants became a matter of public debate.

Fassin adapts here historian E.P. Thompson’s idea of the ‘moral economy’ but neither regards it as a code particular to a group, such as rural workers during the industrial revolution, nor understands it as something long lasting and stable. He rather uses the notion of a moral economy to describe the production, circulation and appropriation of values and affects within the realm of specific problems, in his case migrants wishing to enter a country. The moral economy regarding ‘refugees’ has changed several times during the period since the Second World War. While I would disagree with the historical periodization of the affects and the way Fassin links them to particular groups, for example concentration camp survivors, Latin American resistance fighters or civil war refugees from the former Yugoslavia, the elements he detects certainly were central to the evolving moral economy: commiseration, respect, admiration, compassion, and mistrust.

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Humanitarianism in Historical Perspective

Workshop at the European University Institute, Florence
Report by Johannes Paulmann (IEG, Mainz)

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The workshop participants at the terrace of Villa Schifanoia (from left to right): Alexandra Pfeiff, Simon Stevens, Fabian Klose, Johannes Paulmann, Emily Baughan, Semih Çelik, and Dirk Moses.

On 25th November 2015, scholars met at the EUI to discuss recent research on the history of humanitarianism. Dirk Moses (EUI), who convened the workshop, opened the day with remarks on the controversial nature of humanitarianism. What for some is a heroic movement that ended the slave trade is for others the rhetorical handmaiden of the European empires that partitioned Africa in the name of ending slavery and introducing civilization in the late nineteenth century. New research is historicizing these impressions, debates, and associated notions of humanity, humanitarian aid, humanitarian intervention, human rights and genocide prevention.

Johannes Paulmann (Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz) started the proceedings with a paper on ‘The Humanitarian Narrative in Context: From Mission and Empire to Cold War and Decolonization’. Adapting Didier Fassin’s notion of ‘humanitarian reason’, he discussed the changing rhetoric and visual means which are employed to form a bond between those who are suffering and those who care to help. While contemporary scholarly critique of crisis relief questions the narrative which leads readers and spectators to assume that ameliorative action is possible, effective and therefore morally required, the ‘emergency imaginary’ (Craig Calhoun) has made responding to disasters by quickly delivering assistance worldwide one of the modalities of globalization carrying moral imperatives for immediate actions. Presenting two historical examples, with a focus on bodily images, Paulmann then analysed the display of mutilations during the Congo reform campaign in the context of missionaries’ drive for saving souls around 1900 and concluded with a documentary film on a West German civilian hospital ship during the Vietnam War. These images were embedded in a narrative of Red Cross neutral humanitarian action and the ambiguous attempts to keep one’s distance to bodily harm, the politics of war, and later also towards refugees. Late 1970s humanitarian reason appeared strikingly similar made up with regard to the politics of solidarity and inequality we presently witness in Europe.

Humanitarian military intervention was the topic Fabian Klose (Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz) presented under the title ‘Enforcing Humanity: A Genealogy of Humanitarian Intervention’. He explored the history of intervention which, in contrast to claims by political scientist, reaches back to the early nineteenth century when a key transition unfolded from the protection of specific co-religious groups to protection ‘in the name of humanity’. Based on extensive archival research, he highlighted the centrality of the suppression of slave-trading for establishing the practice of humanitarian intervention before its inclusion in the body of international law towards the end of the nineteenth century. This has not been fully acknowledged in recent research. Klose also emphasized that the interventionist discourse was not a human rights discourse. ‘In the name of humanity’, at the time did not imply universal individual rights or even less so equality. Humanity as a legal norm to be enforced by states was limited to the notion of a common humanity which was open to numerous differentiations, categorizations, and hierarchies.

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Final Call for Applications for Global Humanitarianism Research Academy 2016

The second Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) 2016 call for applications closes on 31 December 2015.

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Call for Applications:

Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy

International Research Academy on the History of Global Humanitarianism

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:                                  University of Exeter

Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva

Dates:                                   10-22 July 2016

Deadline:                              31 December 2015

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The international Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy(GHRA) offers research training to advanced PhD candidates and early postdocs. It combines academic sessions at the Imperial and Global History Centre at the University of Exeter and the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz 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.

The Research Academy invites applications for the 2016 Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy (GHRA) from PhD students and early postdocs. The Steering Committee will select up to 12 participants. Applicants must be able to certify that they are fluent in both written and spoken English, the Academy’s working language. For researching the ICRC archives a fair command of reading French is desirable in order to use the finding aids as well as the material.

Each selected academy fellow receives the cost of travel to Exeter and accommodation in Exeter and Geneva.

Participants of the international Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy will be chosen by the Steering Committee on the basis of

  1. a cover letter (maximum 350 words) setting out the applicant’s motivation for participating in the academy and indicating the anticipated outcome of their research;
  2. a statement (maximum 1,000 words) summarizing their research project;
  3. a brief curriculum vitae (maximum 2 pages);
  4. two supporting letters/recommendations.

This application should be compiled by the applicant and the whole set of papers including statements of support should be submitted as a PDF, with the file saved as ‘LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME.PDF’. To apply, please send your application consisting of one pdf-document with the Subject “Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy” to the organisers at ghra@ieg-mainz.de by December 31, 2015.

E-MAIL for applications and enquiries: ghra@ieg-mainz.de

“Refugees are Human” – Humanitarian Narratives and Strategies

In a recent conference held at the Leibniz Institute of European History international scholars discussed in an interdisciplinary dialogue the history of European concepts of humanity in practice. However, as matter of fact the relationship between concepts and practices of humanity is not only one of historical research, but is also most relevant in our days. Confronted with the tremendous humanitarian crisis of hundreds of thousands of children, women, and men trying to escape from disaster, war, and persecution – many of them drowning and dying on their perilous journeys to the alleged safe haven of Europe – voices are loudly raised appealing to common humanity and demanding appropriate action by the international community.

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Syrian refugees strike at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway Station, 4 September 2015, Picture by Mstyslav Chernov CC BY-SA 4.0

Horrified by the loss of thousands of lives in the Mediterranean Sea and on the concrete occasion of the appalling discovery of 71 dead refugees asphyxiated inside an abandoned lorry nearby the Austrian-Hungarian border the UN Secretary-General Baan Ki-Moon launched an urgent appeal on 28 August 2015: “A large majority of people undertaking these arduous and dangerous journeys are refugees fleeing from places such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. International law has stipulated – and states have long recognized – the right of refuges to protection and asylum. When considering asylum requests, States cannot make distinctions based on religion or other identity – nor can they force people to return to places from which they have fled if there is a well-founded fear of persecution or attack. This is not a matter of international law; it is also our duty as human beings. […] I appeal to all governments involved to provide comprehensive responses, expand safe and legal channels of migration and act with humanity, compassion and in accordance with their international obligations.”[1]

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New publication: SOS Biafra

This new publication may be of interest to readers of this blog: SOS Biafra by Dominik Matter is an analysis of Swiss foreign relations in the context of the Nigerian civil war (1967–1970).  «SOS Biafra» was the International Committee of the Red Cross’s appeal to the public, in May 1968, to support the relief mission in the secessionist area, which was completely isolated. Besides such public appeals, it were images of starving children that temporarily brought the war and the impending humanitarian crisis in Nigeria to the public attention in the West.

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Swiss authorities faced numerous political challenges related to Biafra: the ICRC mission, the Bührle affair, the so-called “Biafra propaganda” by the Geneva Markpress agency, or the petition for the recognition of Biafra all indicate the complexity of the subject. On the basis of this constellation, Dominik Matter traces the interaction between government and non-government agents in the development of Swiss foreign relations in the context of the Nigerian civil war.

The open-access book is published as volume 5 of Quaderni di Dodis, a publication series of the Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland (DDS) research center.

Further information and download: dodis.ch/q5

Towards a History of Socioeconomic Rights

First event of the Socioeconomic Rights in History Network will take place in Paris at the Institut d’Études avancées.

There will be public lectures at 18 November 2015, 14h-17h:

Programme:

14h-15h00

Socioeconomic Rights in History: Questions and Problems

Charles Walton, University of Warwick

Health and the History of Socioeconomic Rights since 1750

Claudia Stein, University of Warwick

Coffee/tea

15h10-16h10

The Demise of Social Rights as Human Rights in Europe

Marco Duranti, University of Sydney

The Human Right to Health: the Modern Philosophy, Politics and Economics

Sridhar Venkatapuram, King’s College London

16h10-17h

Comments, Q & A

 

International Workshop: Humanitarianism in Historical Perspective

EUI

 

 

Date:

25 November 2015

Venue:

European University Institute

Sala Europa, Villa Schifanoia

via Giovanni Boccaccio 121, Florence

Few keywords evoke as much controversy as humanitarianism. What for some is a heroic movement that ended the slave trade is for others the rhetorical handmaiden of the European empires that partitioned Africa in the name of ending slavery and introducing civilization in the late nineteenth century. Its applications are also diverse, ranging from foreign interventions in the internal affairs of states to national and international regimes of refugee relief. In the main, humanitarianism has been associated with western powers—whether positively or negatively—but is that an accurate understanding of these phenomena? New research is historicizing these impressions, debates, and associated notions of humanity, human rights, and genocide prevention. This workshop continues the critical project of contextualizing humanitarianism’s many dimensions by conducting sober genealogies, invoking global frames, and conducting dense empirical reconstructions. Continue reading

Socioeconomic Rights in History Network

Rights, Duties and the Politics of Obligation: Socioeconomic Rights in History

Socioeconomic rights have a long but poorly understood history. They are sometimes referred to as ‘second generation rights’, as twentieth-century additions to core civil and political rights stretching back to the European Enlightenment. Yet, socioeconomic rights – such as the right to work and to subsistence – emerged in the political struggles of the French Revolution and have been repeatedly argued for since then. Although most countries in the world have legally recognized them as ‘human rights’ by signing the United Nations’ 1966 International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, they tend not to receive the same degree of legitimacy and visibility as civil and political rights.

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This Leverhulme International Network brings together scholars from around the world to explore the history of socioeconomic rights. We will consider representations of them over time as well as the various political and philosophical challenges to them. Their history, we believe, is bound up with other historical dynamics, including notions about ‘duties’ and ‘obligations’, theories of political economy, politics (left and right), philanthropy and humanitarianism. While taking a broad view of socioeconomic rights, we will focus especially on health: a topic of government concern since the eighteenth century but one that became understood in terms of civil and human rights in the twentieth.

The network is hosted by the Global History and Culture Centre and European Centre at the University of Warwick. Claudia Stein (History) and Charles Walton (History) are leading it, with support from James Harrison (Law). Network partners include:

Nicolas Delalande (Sciences Po)
Paul-André Rosental (Sciences Po)
Sabine Arnaud (Max Planck Institute of the History of Science)
Fabian Klose (Leibniz Institute of European History)
Sam Moyn (Harvard University)
Mark Goodale (University of Lausanne)

 

During its 36 month duration, the network will include six meetings on various issues concerning socioenocmic rights in history.

For more information visit the network’s Webpage @:

http://warwick.ac.uk/socioeconomicrightsnetwork