New Book on “René Cassin and Human Rights”

Jay Winter, Charles J. Stille Professor of History at Yale University, and Antoine Prost, Professor Emeritus at the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, have published their new book on René Cassin and Human Rights. From the Great War to the Universal Declaration, (originally published in French in 2011). Both authors are investigating the emergence of the international human rights regime through the lens of one of its supposed major protagonists. They focusing on the life of the prominent French jurist and diplomat René Cassin (1887-1976), who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968 for his renowned human rights commitment.

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By examining the biography of this prominent figure Winter and Prost seek to show what human rights meant to a generation that experienced two World Wars and how these experiences shaped the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Approaching the history of human rights through the prism of an individual’s life both authors claim to add a “third approach” ( p. xix) to the existing literature:  “This biography is a history of the struggle for human rights in a specific time and place. We offer a different chronology and a compromise between those who see human rights as advancing in a glacial manner in a cumulative or additive process of gains and losses, and those who see it in terms of truncated evolution, with a radical break at a specific point in time” (p. xix).

I have just published a review of the book in the American Historical Review, Vol. 119, No. 5, p. 1786-1787. If you are interested in reading it, you will find the complete review @:

http://ahr.oxfordjournals.org/content/119/5/1786.full?keytype=ref&ijkey=Pz5fCb7lkzrrdjj

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

 

New Book: The Russian Orthodox Church and Human Rights

In one of my earlier posts  I have discussed the issue of human rights concerning the Romanian Orthodox Church. Today I would like to draw your attention on the new book of the Austrian political scientist and sociologist Kristina Stoeckl on the position of the Russian Orthodox Church in relation to human rights. “The Russian Orthodox Church and Human Rights” was recently published by Routledge.

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I consider this book as a major contribution to the subject. The author is very well informed and approaches almost all the determining issues of the debate. Her discussion of the crucial pattern of modernization in the Eastern Churches (see my contribution), their relation to post secular globalized and plural world includes subtle analysis from the perspective of sociology, political sciences, politics, international law and even theology. The interdisciplinary approach opens a multitude of perspectives, but bears also some difficulties.

As she frankly acknowledges on page 130, Kristina Stoeckl is “a political scientist” and “has opted for a political-sociological analysis of the Russian Orthodox human rights debate”, but “as an outside observer [she has] not failed to notice the theological dynamic at play”. This is partially true, she notices indeed the theological dynamics, but misinterprets it. A religious scholar familiar with the theological and ecclesiological discourses within Eastern Christianity (the main issues when you have to speak about a ‘Church’) would criticize the lack of religious expertise. Therefor I would like to discuss following three aspects from a theological point of view: Continue reading

Edited volume “Just and Unjust Military Intervention”

In the light of the ongoing political crisis concerning the Ukraine and Syria the issue of justifying military intervention is high on the agenda of international politics. Despite the recent intense political debate, the theoretical discussion about just and unjust military intervention is much older. It reaches back to the texts of classical European philosophers of the early modern period. Already thinkers such as Francisco Suarez, Alberico Gentili, Hugo Grotius and Emer de Vattel referred in their work to this crucial issue of international politics.

For that reason Stefano Recchia, Lecturer in International Relations at Cambridge University, and Jennifer M. Welsh, Professor of International Relations at the European University Institute, have recently published the interdisciplinary volume Just and Unjust Military Intervention. European Thinkers from Vitoria to Mill, Cambridge University Press 2013.

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Continue reading

Discussion on “Human Rights and Decolonization”

Additionally to my last post concerning the publication of my book “Human Rights in the Shadow of Colonial Violence. The Wars of Independence in Kenya and Algeria” and the related research on “Human Rights and Decolonization” I would like to point to the important publication of Roland Burke, Decolonization and the Evolution of International Human Rights, Philadelphia 2010 (http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/14717.html). In his book Roland Burke, Lecturer at La Trobe University Melbourne, analyzes the changing impact of decolonization on the UN human rights program. In showing the crucial importance of Third World influence on the international human rights agenda he offers an inspiring new perspective. You will find my review of the book at:

http://www.sehepunkte.de/2013/06/17799.html

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In October 2010 “humanity” (editor: Sam Moyn, Columbia University, New York), a peer-reviewed academic journal, started to publish research and reflections on human rights, humanitarianism, and development in the modern and contemporary world. I strongly recommend the journal and the related blog, which you can find at: http://www.humanityjournal.org/blog

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In the first issue of “humanity” Jan Eckel, historian at the University of Freiburg, wrote an essay review on Roland’s book and the German version of my book “Menschenrechte im Schatten kolonialer Gewalt” (https://www.oldenbourg-verlag.de/wissenschaftsverlag/menschenrechte-im-schatten-kolonialer-gewalt/9783486588842), in which he raised some interesting questions. On the journal’s blog Roland and I used the opportunity to respond to Jan’s essay review and we started a fruitful discussion on the topic of “human rights and decolonization”.

If you are interested in following the discussion you will find

 

 

News: Publication of “Human Rights in the Shadow of Colonial Violence”

I am happy to let you know that my book “Human Rights in the Shadow of Colonial Violence. The Wars of Independence in Kenya and Algeria” has been recently published by The University of Pennsylvanian Press (for more details see: http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15084.html).

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My book, the English translation of my dissertation “Menschenrechte im Schatten kolonialer Gewalt” (originally published in German by Oldenbourg in 2009), analyzes the relationship between the emergence of human rights concepts after 1945 and the increasing radicalization of colonial violence. Based on previously inaccessible material from the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Human Rights Commission, this comparative study uses the Mau Mau War (1952–1956) and the Algerian War (1954–1962) as case studies to examine the policies of two major imperial powers, Britain and France. By analyzing the colonial states of emergency, counterinsurgency strategy, and the significance of humanitarian international law in both conflicts I show that the crimes on the part of Western powers that promoted human rights in other areas of the world were diametrically opposed to the growing global acceptance of freedom, equality, self-determination, and universal rights. In my book I want to demonstrate the mutually impacting histories of international human rights and decolonization.

I hope my book will find a broad international readership and I am looking forward to reactions and comments.