International Conference: Humanitarianism and Charity. Expressions of or Alternatives to Socioeconomic Rights?

Convenors: Fabian Klose (Mainz), Claudia Stein (Warwick), Charles Walton (Warwick)
Venue: Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) Mainz
Date: September 28 – 29, 2017
Information: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/history/ghcc/research/serhn

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.
At this international conference at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, as part of the Leverhulme International Network ‘Rights, Duties and the Politics of Obligation: Socioeconomic Rights in History’, international scholars discuss the history of socioeconomic rights from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. In particular, they focus on the complex relationship between a discourse on socioeconomic rights and debates about humanitarianism and charity thus seeking to connect these two important fields of research. In this context the leading questions are: How has humanitarianism and charity figured within the rhetoric of rights? How have the politics of obligation differed between voluntary and rights-based approaches to dealing with socio-economic crises and deprivations? How have states and NGO’s tried to balance providing for urgent needs with the more long-term development of a rights-based approach upheld by the sovereign state?

Program

Thursday, September 28, 2017

2:00pm-2:30pm Fabian Klose (Mainz), Claudia Stein (Warwick), and Charles Walton (Warwick), Welcome and Introduction

2:30-3:30pm Keynote Lecture I:
Michael Barnett (Washington), ‘Humanitarianism and Socio-Economic Rights: Look, But Don’t Touch’

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New Book: Humanity. A History of European Concepts in Practice From the Sixteenth Century to the Present

This edited volume investigates the development of the concepts and practices of “humanity” from the sixteenth century to the present. By choosing a longue-durée approach the book analyzes how shifting concepts of humanity shaped various practices and at the same time how ideas themselves were informed by these practices in the course of four hundred years. As humanity is evoked in a remarkable array of themes, the contributors deliberately focus on issues such as humanism, colonial expansion and imperialism, missions, abolitionism, international humanitarian law, humanitarianism, human rights, charity and philanthropy. In their understanding, these are crucial arenas, in which concepts and practices of humanity were sustainably shaped, defined, questioned and reconfigured. While there are a huge number of individual studies on each theme, the book seeks to connect these various fields and analyze their entanglements under the overarching theme of the idea of humanity.

Humanity

Accordingly, the volume regards the notion of humanity not as static and related only to one specific century, but as a dynamic concept, which emerged in the course of several centuries. One of the central aims is to show its procedural and evolutionary character with all its ambiguities and inconsistencies in the context of Europe itself as well as the continent’s relation to the wider world. Beyond Europe, the volume covers another three different geographical regions – namely Africa, America, and Asia, thus seeking to combine methodologically European history with approaches of transnational and global history.

Being aware of the multidimensional character of the topic and underlining the enrichment of research from different perspectives, the book adopts an interdisciplinary approach. Beyond doubt in the debates around the idea of humanity, religion played a remarkable role. Jewish, Catholic as well as Protestant teaching shaped the notion in many significant ways. It served for various actors such as philosophers, reformists, missionaries, abolitionists, and legal scholars frequently as a fundamental source for inspiring their theories and influencing their action. For this reason, theologians and historians in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Switzerland provide, for the first time together, innovative perspectives on the European concepts of humanity in practice. Thus, the book promotes an integrative approach to the theme by combining not only different geographical regions but also various historical epochs and academic disciplines in a single volume.

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