In March 2014 Oliver Dörr (Osnabrück), Marc Frey (Munich), and Jörn Axel Kämmerer (Hamburg) organized the Hamburg Symposium on Colonialism and International Law at the Bucerius Law School. Some of papers of the conference have now been published as articles in the new issue of the Journal of the history of International Law.
My own article deals with the topic of Human Rights for and against Empire – Legal and Public Discourses in the Age of Decolonisation (JHIL, Vol. 18, 2016, p. 317-338). Against the background of an ongoing debate about the role of human rights in the age of decolonization this essay approaches the issue from two different angles. It concentrates on the paradoxical situation that anti-colonial movements as well as colonial powers instrumentalized international human rights documents such as the Genocide Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, and the European Conventions on Human Rights for achieving their political goals. In combining legal and public discourses in a significant way both sides accused each other of gross human rights violations while at the same time presenting themselves as respecting and even guaranteeing fundamental human rights. Especially during the course of the wars of decolonization after 1945 this phenomena became obvious in various diplomatic debates at the United Nations and made universal rights a diplomatic pawn in international debates.
Dr James Crossland
Senior Lecturer in International History, Liverpool John Moores University UK J.N.Crossland@ljmu.ac.uk
This conference acknowledges the growing number of historians and researchers working in the rapidly expanding area of the history of the international Red Cross Movement. With its origins in the mid-nineteenth century, this global humanitarian organisation includes the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) originally formed in Geneva in 1863, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) created in 1919, as well as the 189 (at last count) national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.
The convenors seek to bring together scholars and those interested in the Red Cross Movement from around the world to explore a number of themes that related to the historical development of this large, multifaceted, complex organisation.
This conference will discuss the relationship between gender and humanitarian discourse and practice in the twentieth century. Although the history of humanitarianism has recently attracted attention from scholars working in a variety of fields, surprisingly little has been said about the workings of gender in this globalizing enterprise. To fill this gap, this interdisciplinary conference will analyze the ways in which constructions and ideologies of gender shaped and were shaped by humanitarian practices, interactions, ideas, and bodies. We invite innovative contributions from historians, anthropologists, social scientists and from the humanities discussing twentieth-century humanitarian actors (organizations, movements, and individual activists), discourses and practices in the context of gender. The conference particularly emphasizes the time between the First World War and the end of the Cold War, with a special focus on the (re)production of humanitarian structures, organizations and orders in both post-war periods and in the context of heightened colonialism and decolonization. It thus concentrates on a period that not only witnessed a great expansion of humanitarian action worldwide but also saw fundamental changes in gender relations and the gradual emergence of gender-sensitive policies in humanitarian organizations in many Western and non-Western settings.
Intersections and Transformations in the Early Modern and Modern Period
April 10–12, 2016
Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG), Mainz,
and Museum Judengasse, Frankfurt a.M.
Shtadlanut (intercession) is generally perceived as a Jewish political practice, or as Jewish diplomacy. It was often closely connected with “righteous” and charitable activities (tzedakah) within the Jewish community. Both practices changed fundamentally during the 19th and early 20th centuries, when Jews were offered emancipation and, as a result, faced issues of inclusion, acculturation, and assimilation. In this context, the shtadlanim (advocates) of the Jewish minority were confronted with the incomplete integration as well as increasing anti-Semitism, which appear to have reinforced the necessity of Jewish intercession and solidarity.
The workshop takes a new look at the concepts of shtadlanut and tzedakah, in order to identify how they are interrelated and how these interrelations have changed over time. Key questions of the workshop are: How did Jews represent and negotiate their interests and “otherness” in different societies? Why and how could they receive special status in cultural, economic, and legal systems from the early modern period up to the 20th century? How influential were the concept and practice of tzedakah in Jewish political traditions? How have intercession and welfare been adapted in the course of the modern era?
Katharina Stornig, Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte, Mainz: Review of Fehrenbach, Heide; Rodogno, Davide (Hrsg.): Humanitarian Photography. A History. Cambridge 2015.
Although the history of humanitarianism has recently attracted great attention from historians and social scientists, surprisingly little work has so far been done on its visual dimensions. Yet there can be no doubt that images, visual technologies, and media practices were fundamental to the emergence and formation of a global humanitarian enterprise since the nineteenth century. The volume “Humanitarian Photography,” edited by Heide Fehrenbach and Davide Rodogno, thus constitutes an important and most welcome contribution to a flourishing field of research. Focusing on the mobilization of photography by humanitarian activists and organizations in the twentieth century, the volume gives compelling insights into the transnational production, reproduction, use, and function of photographs in various contexts of humanitarian activism. Pointing to the key role that photography played in the development of humanitarianism, it introduces a range of people, groups and organizations that conceived of photographs as essential means in order to aid far-off people, to raise funds or to create awareness of human suffering. Fehrenbach and Rodogno insist on the need to study humanitarian photography in a historical perspective. Consequently, their volume, which follows an interdisciplinary approach and consists of both new texts and reprints of important articles in the field, presents a chronology, according to which humanitarian photography emerged out of transnational missionary activity, expanded within various international organizations and eventually developed into a professional field that was ethically framed and regulated in the 1980s.
This interdisciplinary conference, organized by Fabian Klose (Mainz) and Mirjam Thulin (Mainz) on behalf of the members of IEG research group “Coping with Difference – Concepts of Humanity and Humanitarian Practices”, was held at the Leibniz Institute of European History (Mainz) from 8 to 10 October 2015. Prioritizing a comparative approach and focusing on the intersection of religious studies, international law and philosophy as well as on the history of humanitarianism and human rights, this conference set out to analyse 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. Keeping religious, colonial, social and gender aspects of the issue in mind, theologians and historians discussed the topic of “humanity” by focusing on such key issues as morality and human dignity, violence and international law, philanthropy, charity and solidarity.
The conference opened with a keynote lecture in which FRANCISCO BETHENCOURT (London) offered a historical review of principal aspects and categories of the division of humankind supposedly based on ethnicity, religion, gender, wealth and social status. He marked economic and political interests as the key motivations behind discriminatory actions and put an emphasis on ideological justifications of those distinctions. Questioning the universality of these divisions, he highlighted power relations as the basis of the categories and divisions, most of which displayed unstable patterns changed or recreated over time.
The first panel of the conference, dealing with morality and human dignity in early modern concepts, opened with MIHAI-D. GRIGORE’s (Mainz) presentation. Grigore concentrated on a transition in early modern political anthropology from humanitas Christiana, which viewed humanity as depending on an external or transcendental factor, i.e. God or the Church, to humanitas politica, which understood humanity as being inherent to every human being. Grigore traced this transition in the writings of Erasmus, which emphasises human nature as the property of individuals, not the Church, and a mutual goodwill intensified by education. MARIANO DELGADO (Fribourg) then presented his paper on the reflections of Spanish Catholic thinkers about the “nature” of American Indians in the 16th century. After outlining the dual genealogy of these thinkers’ ideas – the humanistic, enlightened thread stemming from the Stoa, considering the human race as one family, on the one side and Christian theology stressing man in the image of God on the other – Delgado presented two very different Christian thinkers, Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, showing how Sepúlveda justified European expansion in the Americas with the Indians’ supposed inferiority, and how Las Casas fought for the recognition of the Indians’ status as human beings. Delgado’s contribution was a reminder both of the variety of Christian thinking in the early modern period and of the strength of humanistic ideas even before the Enlightenment.
Public figures as diverse as Victor Basch, René Cassin, Emile Durkheim, Albert Einstein, Emile Kahn, Caroline Rémy de Guebhard (Séverine), or Kurt Tucholsky had one thing in common: they were all committed members of a human rights league. Taking as a starting point a research project on “Civil Society and the Austrian League for Human Rights”, a research group headed by Professor Wolfgang Schmale at the Department of History, University of Vienna, is now investigating the history of various human rights leagues whose formation was inspired by the Ligue pour la Défénse des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen. The foundation of this French organization in 1898 signalizes a new phase in the history of civil society and its institutions, as a considerable number of individuals, mainly in Europe, followed the French example and formed national human rights leagues in their respective countries. They joined forces in establishing an international umbrella organization, the Ligue Internationale des Droits de l’Homme resp. Fédération Internationale des (Ligues des) Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), launched in 1922 in Paris.
In May 2014, the research group organized an international workshop on the history of these human rights leagues at the University of Vienna. The main focus was on the interwar period. However, as some leagues were founded only after World War II or even decades later, some contributions were also dealing with the history of these newer leagues. In several panels countries such as Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, and the FIDH were covered.
I would like to draw your attention to the new anthology in German on Christianity and Human Rights in Europe, edited by three renowned reasearchers in the field of Eastern Christianity, Vasilios N. Makrides, Jennifer Wasmuth, and Stefan Kube.
The starting point of the contributions in this volume is the important official statement of the Russian Orthodox Church on Human Rights in 2008. Most chapters are considering aspects related to this issue, but there are also important studies on subjects regarding the position of other European Churches and denominations toward Human Rights, for instance the Romanian Orthodox (the second largest Orthodox Church in the world), the Catholic, and the Lutheran Churches.
Among the contributors are Alfons Brüning, Ingeborg Gabriel, Vasilios N. Makrides, Kristina Stoeckl, Hans G. Ulrich, important theologians, historians or religious scholars in the field of modern European religious history.
I wrote the chapter on the position of the Romanian-Orthodox Church towards human rights (“Positionen zu den Menschenrechten in der Rumänischen Orthodoxie”). This essay is an extension of a previous contribution on this blog and arises from the general observation that there is no common and uniform Orthodox Christian position towards human rights. I argue that, contrary to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church adopts a less systematic and programmatic strategy on human rights. Its stance is characterised by pragmatism with punctual finality depending on different contexts and themes, starting with bioethics and ending with problems regarding abuses against minorities and migrants. The main doctrinal and argumentative patterns of these two Orthodox Churches are further underpinned, on the one hand by the official document of the Russian Church on human rights of 2008, and on the other hand by various statements of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Church.
An audiovisual treasure chest containing thousands of ICRC photos, films/videos and audio recordings documenting the ICRC past and present is now opened to public.
Thisnew online platform, aimed at anyone curious to find out more about the audiovisual history of this 153 years humanitarian institution’s history, will give the public direct access to an amazing material illustrating the ICRC activities and operations from the end of the nineteenth century till the present day.
The new platform, which is available in English and French, contains more than 93,000 digitized and downloadable photos, around 1,700 films and videos and over 1000 audio recordings. Although some foreseen digital versions of videos are not attached yet to the online records, their integration is ongoing.
The portal really is a study in simplicity: Say, for example, you want to look at photos of ICRC activities in Ethiopia. Just a couple of clicks will take you to a database of some 900 photos dating back to 1935. You can search by year, country/region, keyword and person. There are even Red Cross radio programs to listen to and a selection of films dating back to 1921.
The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights is starting a new master of advanced studies on transitional justice, human rights and the rule of law, which will start in September 2016. The Faculty comprises leading scholars in the field of transitional justice, human rights and the rule of law – such as William Schabas, Rama Mani, Christof Heyns, etc. One of the special features of the programme is a concern to link academic teaching and research with practical work and professionalizing activities. The programme offers students access to work experience in leading international agencies dedicated to transitional justice, human rights and rule of law concerns. The programme adopts a highly personalized approach to teaching and academic life by providing individualized guidance and one-to-one counseling for students, namely via personalized academic mentoring, career coaching and the coordination of internships.
For further Information visit the website:
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.
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.
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?
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”.
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:
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