Current Issue Article Abstracts
Volume 11, Number 3, Winter 2020
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This essay examines the origins of family planning programs in postcolonial Morocco and demonstrates a dynamic relationship between the Moroccan leadership, population experts, and global health programs. While introducing the initiative in Morocco, King Hassan II and the Population Council, the chief architect and supporter of population control efforts in the 1960s, negotiated, adapted, and balanced competing agendas in order to achieve their respective goals. The Moroccan case reveals innovative methods of state building but it also highlights how population control created contradictions of sovereignty and agency for independent regimes. This study, therefore, contributes to our understanding of the complex interplay and mutual dependence between newly sovereign states in the global south and international organizations in the post-independence era.
This article takes Amnesty International’s “Aid and Trade” debate during the late 1970s and early 1980s as a window onto the ways that human rights activists thought about their work and how they understood their organization. It examines the way they grappled with their relationship in to expanding governmental action on human rights, and the meaning of the concepts “effectiveness” and “impartiality,” which were central to Amnesty’s founding.
This essay considers the labor of field interpreters who worked for the UN during two critical missions in Nepal—the UN High Commission of Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) during and after the Maoist civil war. Interpreters negotiate two different ethical stances that resonate with contrasting ethical approaches in human rights and humanitarian work. As conduits of voice, an interpreter seeks to be neutral and impartial, a non-autonomous figure of mediation within the work of human rights. Field interpreters are also earwitnesses, who bear subjective responsibility for the knowledge they convey, through their work of listening to often-traumatic testimonies. To get at the paradoxes of between being both a neutral conduit of voice and a subjective earwitness, I explore several moments that interrupt the ideology of invisible transparency within which interpreters work. Despite these constant interruptions, the ideology of transparency continues to prevail, and interpreters’ embodied labor helps preserve such ideals.
The past decade has seen the expansion of architecture with an explicitly humanitarian purpose. This article examines the politics and functions of this movement by looking in detail at the humanitarian center at Porte de la Chapelle in Paris (the “Yellow Bubble”). Based on in-depth interviews and participant observation during 2017, the article shows how the center provided migrants with a bed for the night while at the same time serving the political imperative to clear informal settlements from the streets of Paris. The design, like many others, therefore replicated both the compassionate discourse of humanitarianism and its deeply political functions.
“A Deep and Ongoing Dive into the Brutal Humanism that Undergirds Liberalism”: An Interview with Jasbir K. Puar
This interview with Jasbir K. Puar marks the 10th anniversary of the publication of her influential book Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (2007). With powerful candor and an erudite lightness of touch, Puar responds, among others, to questions that inquire into the life-worlds and aesthetic-political-scholarly inheritances that found their way into the writing of the book; the ways in which the neologism in “homonationalism” has travelled and mutated outside of the context in which it was produced; the struggles with de-exceptionalizing grief in her work with help from friends; the rethinking that she has brought to understanding the relationship between intersectionality and assemblage in the light of criticism that the book received; the limits and possibilities of queer theory today; what fueled her interest in Israel/Palestine as a Sikh; and the affective intensities between disability and debility in her new book The Right to Maim (2017).
Slavery and anti-slavery were key motifs of political imagination in the age of global Empire. This review essay discusses Amalia Ribi Forclaz’s Humanitarian Imperialism: The Politics of Anti-Slavery Activism, 1880–1940, Richard Huzzey’s Freedom Burning: Anti-Slavery and Empire in Victorian Britain, and Ashutosh Kumar’s Coolies of the Empire: Indentured Indians in the Sugar Colonies, 1830–1920 to explore the multifaceted ties between slavery, abolitionism, humanitarianism, and colonial Empire. The essay goes on to argue that anti-slavery emerged as an idiom for globalization in an imperial age—defined by the anxieties engendered by a massively accelerating mobility and the frictions underlying the colonial civilizing mission.
The Conundrum(s) of Political Violence
The purpose of this review essay is not so much to dwell on the numerous virtues of Mathias Thaler’s Naming Violence and Elizabeth Frazer’s and Kimberly Hutchings’ Can Political Violence Ever be Justified?, but rather to enter into a critical discussion with the authors and to carve out some major points of disagreement. In both cases I am not entirely convinced by how the authors conceptualize potential responses to political violence. After discussing the two books in isolation from each other, the essay’s conclusion brings some of the previous arguments together and opens a space in which we can develop a theory of judging and responding to violence.