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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“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

Michael Geyer’s GHRA Lecture on IEG YouTube

On the occasion of the first Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) Prof. Dr. Michael Geyer (University of Chicago) was invited as guest lecturer and gave an intriguing talk on “Humanitarianism, Humanitarian Law, and Human Rights. A Difficult Relationship”

In order to enable a broader public audience to listen and to watch Michael Geyer’s perceptive lecture on a highly relevant topic, we decided to put it on the new IEG YouTube channel. Enjoy watching Michael Geyer’s talk!

There will more videos coming up soon at IEG YouTube, so keep following it!

Additionally, please note that the Call for Application for the GHRA 2016 will be soon published here on hhr!

Fabian Klose        Johannes Paulmann      Andrew Thompson

CfP: Empire and Humanitarianism, 13 and 14 June 2016, University of Exeter

Cross-posted from:

http://imperialandglobal.exeter.ac.uk/2015/07/cfp-empire-and-humanitarianism-13-and-14-june-2016/

Following the success of the Network’s first conference in June 2014, we’re delighted to announce details of our second conference, which will take place at the University of Exeter in June 2016. The next conference will be on the theme of ‘Empire and Humanitarianism’ and the call for papers can be found below. As with our first conference, we’re particularly keen to have submissions from PhD students and early career researchers but proposals from more established historians are welcome too. A selection of papers from the first conference are scheduled to appear in the Journal of World History later this year and we anticipate that our second conference will result in a special issue or edited collection.

The ‘global turn’ has invigorated the study of humanitarianism, development and human rights. Within the context of Imperial history, historians have pointed to the complex and often contradictory relationship between humanitarianism and empire. Although humanitarianism emerged in response to the worst excesses of imperialism, such as the slave trade and the atrocities associated with the Boer War, it was nonetheless shaped by the ‘moral and political frameworks of empire’.[1] In other words, empire and humanitarianism were not necessarily incompatible and could in fact be mutually reinforcing, whether this was through the paternal rhetoric of the ‘civilising mission’ or the development of international regulatory agencies during the inter-war period. Although these discourses and mechanisms were often more concerned with consolidating the authority of the imperial powers than they were in protecting the rights of colonial subject populations, humanitarianism could have emancipatory effects. As the legitimacy of empire came under increasing scrutiny after 1945, metropolitan activists shifted from abstract expressions of sympathy for colonial peoples to forms of participatory activism that involved the outright rejection of empire and the channelling of political and material support to nationalist movements For anti-colonial nationalists the emerging discourses associated with human rights, self-determination, and development provided a global context for their local struggles, enabling them to forge transnational links with other anti-colonial groups and providing the language and the means with which to undermine the moral authority of the imperial state.

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ICRC Report on the Effects of the Atomic Bomb at Hiroshima 1945

Cross-posted from icrchistory

Rapport rédigé en octobre 1945 par Fritz Bilfinger, délégué du CICR au Japon à cette époque, concernant les effets du bombardement atomique sur la population d’Hiroshima.

This report on the effects of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima was written on October 1945 by Fritz Bilfinger, ICRC delegate in Japan

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Interdisciplinary Conference “Humanity – a History of European Concepts in Practice”

Convenors:    Fabian Klose and Mirjam Thulin as well as all members                                      of the Leibniz Institute of European History Research Area II

Venue:            Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, Germany

Date:               October 8 to 10, 2015

The aim of the interdisciplinary conference “Humanity” – a History of European Concepts in Practice is to analyze the varieties and shifting meanings of the term “Humanity” within the European context as well as in the context of Europe’s relations to other world regions from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The term defined in an English dictionary of 1755 as “1) The nature of a man, 2) Humankind; the collective body of mankind, 3) Benevolence; tenderness, 4) Philology; grammatical studies”, offers a wide range of starting points in research. Thus, references to “Humanity” can be found in ever increasing numbers on the research agenda of different disciplines.

2015-10-08 -10  Poster Humanity

In our interdisciplinary conference we seek to investigate the intertwined theoretical debates about “Humanity” on the one hand, and their diverse consequences in practice on the other hand. Having religious, colonial, social, and gender perspectives in mind, theologians, philosophers, legal and literary scholars as well as historians will discuss the issue of “Humanity” in a broader dialogue in order to connect their research agendas. In doing so, we will focus on the following issues:

  • Morality and Human Dignity
  • Violence and International Law
  • Philanthropy
  • Social Inequalities

By taking a comparative approach and exploring the intersections of religious studies, international law, philosophy, and literature as well as the history of humanitarianism and human rights the conference will be organized along four leading key questions:

  1. Is the term “Humanity” used as a central point of reference in your sources? If this is the case, to what extend is the term connected to the emergence of normative concepts, implying moral and religious commandments, humanitarian obligations, international law, and human rights?
  2. Which differences and similarities can be identified in the context of various linguistic, cultural and political backgrounds? Are there any equivalent or alternative terms used?
  3. Which historical actors explicitly refer to the term “Humanity”? What was the purpose of doing so? Did it significantly contribute to overcome existing divisions, or did it rather foster the emergence of new differences?
  4. Finally, what transformations of the definition and meaning of “Humanity” can be identified within the period of these 400 years that the conference focuses on?

The conference will be taking place at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, Germany. For further information please contact Fabian Klose or Mirjam Thulin at klose@ieg-mainz.de or thulin@ieg-mainz.de.

‘Archival work and meetings at ICRC vital aspect of the Academy’ – Second Week of GHRA 2015 in Geneva

After the first week of academic training at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) 2015 travelled for a week of research training and discussion with ICRC members to the Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.

DSCN5071GHRA participants in the ICRC Archives

The First Day at Geneva started with an introduction to the public archives and library resources by ICRC staff. Jean-Luc Blondel, former Delegate, Head of Division, and currently Adviser to the Department of Communication and Information Management welcomed the group. Daniel Palmieri, the Historical Research Officer at the ICRC, and
Fabrizio Bensi, Archivist, explained the development of the holdings, particularly of the recently opened records from 1966-1975. The Librarian Veronique Ziegenhagen introduced the library with its encompassing publications on International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, Humanitarian Action, international conflicts and crises. The ICRC also possesses a superb collection of photographs and films which Fania Khan Mohammad, Photo archivist, and Marina Meier, Film archivist explained.

In the afternoon, the GHRA group had the chance to discuss with Jacques Moreillon, Director General of the ICRC between 1984 and 1988. He gave a presentation on his long experience with special insights into Red Cross prison visits with political detainees. Dr Moreillon was one of the ICRC delegates to visit Nelson Mandela on Robben Island and shared his vivid memories with the participants.

GHRA 2015_110Jacques Moreillon, Honorary Member of the ICRC, at the GHRA 2015

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Tweeting the Foundation of the United Nations

On June 26, 1945, fifty nations signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco. A delegate from each nation gave a short speech before signing the Charter. China signed first with its delegate, Dr. V. Wellington Koo, declaring that the world needed “trust & collaboration to make this greatest of international experiments a success.” The ceremony on June 26 represented the culmination of two months of work at the United Nations Conference on International Organization. But it also marked the start of years of work to create other UN agencies and to find a permanent home for the UN General Assembly.

The United Nations History Project has created a Twitter account to trace the founding of the United Nations in real time, seventy years later. The project started in late April with the opening of the San Francisco conference. On June 26, it will tweet the speeches of all fifty delegates. The project will continue over the next few years. Among other events, the Twitter feed will record the debates over the creation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the UN moving to New York, and the accession of new member states such as Poland.

The Twitter account aims to give a sense of the UN’s creation in real time. The UN did not just spring into being on June 26 when delegates signed the Charter. Its creation took years of negotiation and compromise. Follow the account (@UN_History) to see the UN’s development unfold!

First GHRA, 13-24 July 2015

In about four weeks the first Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) will meet for one week of academic training at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz before continuing with archival research at the ICRC Archives 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.

Poster GHRA

The GHRA received a huge amount of applications from an extremely talented group of scholars from more than fifteen different countries around the world. The selection committee considered each proposal very carefully and has selected these participants for the GHRA 2015:

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Humanitarianism & the Media

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At St Antony’s College Oxford, the Richard von Weizsäcker fellow organizes a conference on humanitarianism and aid. The meeting takes place at the European Studies Centre, 70 Woodstock Road, on 19 -20 June 2015. It focuses on the media as an essential feature of the history of humanitarianism. Contributors discuss both the role of the media in humanitarian activities, and the imagery produced in print or on screen. Scholars from history, media studies, and anthropology present recent research with a view on the visual discourse, the meanings and materiality of the images since the beginning of the 20th century. Critically considering the medialisation of the humanitarian, they analyse the interaction between humanitarian agencies and media actors.

Speakers and topics:
(Detailed Programme Hum & Media 2015)

Johannes Paulmann (Oxford/ Mainz)
Introduction

I Humanitarian Imagery

Katharina Stornig (Mainz)
Promoting Distant Children in Need: Christian Imagery in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Rose Holmes (Sussex)
‘Make the situation real to us without stressing the horrors’: Children, photography and British humanitarianism in the Spanish Civil War

Daniel Palmieri (ICRC, Geneva)
Humanitarianism on the Screen: The ICRC Films from the 1920’s to the 1960’s

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Exhibition and Lecture Series: Eine „innertürkische” Verwaltungsangelegenheit?

Eine „innertürkische Verwaltungsangelegenheit“?

Osmanisch-deutsche Verflechtungen und die “Armenier-Greuel” im Ersten Weltkrieg

Ausstellung vom 23.04.2015 – 21.05.2015

an der JGU Mainz, Philosophicum,

Durchgangsbereich der Bereichsbibliothek

Öffnungszeiten: Montag – Freitag 08.00 – 22.00 Uhr

“Über die Armeniergreuel ist folgendes zu sagen: Unsere freundschaftlichen Beziehungen zur Türkei dürfen durch diese innertürkische Verwaltungsangelegenheit nicht nur nicht gefährdet, sondern im gegenwärtigen, schwierigen Augenblick nicht einmal geprüft werden. Deshalb ist es einstweilen Pflicht, zu schweigen.” Mit diesen Worten suchte das Kriegspresseamt des deutschen Kaiserreiches im Oktober 1915 eine Berichterstattung über die Massaker an der armenischen Bevölkerung des Osmanischen Reiches seit dem Frühjahr 1915 in deutschen Zeitungen und Zeitschriften zu verhindern.

Exibition

Im Frühsommer 2015 jährt sich der Völkermord an den Armeniern zum hundertjährigen Gedenken. Die deutsch-osmanische Verflechtungsgeschichte der „Armeniergreuel“ ist jedoch weitgehend in Vergessenheit geraten. Ziel der Ausstellung ist es, die vielfältigen militärischen, ökonomischen und diplomatischen Verstrickungen des Deutschen Reichs in den Völkermord sowohl auf persönlicher wie systematischer Ebene zu rekonstruieren und damit auch eine unbekannte Facette deutsch-osmanischer Geschichte zugänglich zu machen.

Begleitet wird die Ausstellung von einer Vortragsreihe.

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Wann ist Krieg gerechtfertigt? Das Problem des ‚bellum iustum‘ in historischer und systematischer Perspektive

Kolloquium der Professur für Neuere Geschichte (Westeuropa) an der

Helmut‐Schmidt‐Universität Hamburg am 23.‐24. März 2015, Hamburg

lm Mittelpunkt des Kolloquiums steht die Frage nach dem Spannungsverhältnis zwischen kriegsregulierenden Normen und bellizistischer Realität: lnwieweit haben die diversen moralischen bzw. rechtlichen Restriktionen erlaubter Kriegführung im Laufe der Geschichte das Ausmaß kriegerischer Gewalt reduziert? Hat die zunehmende Kriminalisierung des Krieges im 20. Jahrhundert diesen wirklich eingehegt oder lediglich neue Legitimationsstrategien entstehen lassen? Sind es am Ende vielleicht gar nicht so sehr normative Grundsätze als vielmehr ordnungspolitische, ökonomische u.a. Systemeigenschaften, welche den Grad binnen- bzw. zwischenstaatlicher Friedfertigkeit bestimmen?

Programm

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Conference on Decolonization and Cold War Implications on War Crimes Trials in Asia, 1945-1954

Conference Report: “Rethinking Justice? Decolonization, Cold War, and Asian War Crimes Trials after 1945”, Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, Heidelberg (organizer: Dr. Kerstin von Lingenwww.transcultural-justice.uni-hd.de ), October 26-29, 2014

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The first day of the conference began on the evening of 26 October. Kerstin von Lingen, leader of JRG ‘Transcultural Justice’ and principal organizer of the conference, gave an introductory speech where she highlighted how war crimes trials in Asia offered a crucial legal, political, and moral-ideological watershed through which some of the initial contestations of decolonization and Cold War were played out. She argued that the trials should not be seen in isolation, but as part of this broader global politics, and also as an integral stage in the emergence of new universalistic norms of international humanitarian law. Fabian Klose (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz) suggested that in spite of the emergence of these new norms, the traditional colonial powers (he took the specific examples of Britain and France) were reluctant to accept these standards, since their acceptance would have restricted the potential to use violent force to maintain domination in the colonies in Africa and Asia.

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