Second Global Humanitarianism Research Academy, 10-22 July 2016

Fabian Klose
Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz 
Beginning JulyUnbenannt 10, the second Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) will  meet for one week of academic training at the University of Exeter 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 humanitarianisminternational 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.

The GHRA received again a huge amount of applications from an extremely talented group of scholars from more than sixteen different countries around the world. The selection committee considered each proposal very carefully and has selected these participants for the GHRA 2016:

Continue reading “Second Global Humanitarianism Research Academy, 10-22 July 2016”

Global Humanitarianism Research Academy 2015 – Week 1

Andrew Thompson

Cross-posted from Humanitarianism & Human Rights

After the first part the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) 2015 at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz the next week of academic training will take place at the Archives of International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.

Participants of the GHRA 2015
Participants of the GHRA 2015

On Day One recent research and fundamental concepts of global humanitarianism were critically reviewed. Participants discussed crucial texts on the historiography of humanitarianism and human rights. Themes included the historical emergence of humanitarianism since the eighteenth century and the troubled relationship between humanitarianism, human rights, and humanitarian intervention. Further, twentieth century conjunctures of humanitarian aid and the colonial entanglements of human rights were discussed. Finally, recent scholarship on the genealogies of the politics of humanitarian protection and human rights since the 1970s was assessed, also with a view on the challenges for the 21st century. Continue reading “Global Humanitarianism Research Academy 2015 – Week 1”

The Non-Western Origins of Human Rights in East Germany

Stamp commemorating International Human Rights Year 1968. The tree and globe represent the right to life.
Stamp commemorating International Human Rights Year 1968. The tree and globe represent the right to life.

David Spreen
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Cross-Posted from Dissertation Reviews

A review of Between dictatorship and dissent: Ideology, legitimacy, and human rights in East Germany, 1945-1990, by Ned Richardson-Little.

[Editor’s note: Dr. Richardson-Little is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Exeter. His dissertation was awarded the Fritz Stern Prize by the German Historical Institute.]

Ned Richardson-Little’s well-argued and well-researched dissertation challenges the idea that human rights gained importance in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) only after the signing of the Helsinki accords in 1975 – in other words, that the language of human rights was a gift from the West. The problem with this narrative is that it cannot explain why the Socialist Unity Party (SED) signed a document that was so obviously contrary to its own interests. Richardson-Little’s dissertation traces the evolution of the SED’s human rights policies through several stages between 1945 and the 1980s and shows how human rights rhetoric became mobilized by East German citizens as early as 1968. Rather than presenting a narrative of liberal triumphalism from Helsinki to 1989, he demonstrates that human rights discourses existed in the GDR before the 1970s while insisting that these discourses were unstable and contested. Continue reading “The Non-Western Origins of Human Rights in East Germany”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Cat's Cradle

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From Cat’s Cradle the TV show to the modern Left’s ‘White Man’s Burden’, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Q&A: What Can Red Cross Records Say About History of Humanitarianism & Human Rights?

q&a

An Imperial & Global Forum Interview

Professor Richard Toye (RT) interviews Centre Director Andrew Thompson (AT). Professor Thompson recently returned from an archival visit to the ICRC and would like to thank Jean-Luc Blondel and his colleagues for their assistance and guidance.

RT: Andrew, you’ve recently come back from Geneva, where you’ve been doing some archival research. What were you looking at and why?

AT: I was looking at two sets of files in the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross that have not yet been publicly released. The first on the Nigeria-Biafran War – a watershed in the history of the ICRC as well as a conflict that has been aptly described as the “crucible of modern humanitarianism”. Continue reading “Q&A: What Can Red Cross Records Say About History of Humanitarianism & Human Rights?”

Dutch Imperial Past Returns to Haunt the Netherlands

Paul Doolan
University of Zurich and Zurich International School

Photos in De Volkskrant July, 10 2012
Photos in De Volkskrant, 10 July 2012.

In July 2012 a Dutch national newspaper, de Volkskrant, published two photos on its front page showing Dutch soldiers brutally shooting and killing unarmed victims in a mass grave. The images were shocking to a nation that prides itself as being upright and humanitarian. Never mind that the photos were nearly 70 years old. Found in a rubbish tip, they were, in fact, the first ever photos to be published of Dutch soldiers killing Indonesians during a war of decolonization that is still euphemistically referred to as a “Police Action.”

Why did it take so long for such images to reach the public? Continue reading “Dutch Imperial Past Returns to Haunt the Netherlands”

Writing Human Rights into the History of State Socialism

Ned Richardson-Little
Associate Research Fellow, University of Exeter

One of a number of East German postage stamps commemorating International Human Rights Year 1968. The hammer and anvil represent the right to work.
One of a number of East German postage stamps commemorating International Human Rights Year 1968. The hammer and anvil represent the right to work.

The collapse of the Communist Bloc in 1989-1991 is viewed as one of the great triumphs of the human rights movement. But this ignores how socialist elites of the Eastern Bloc viewed themselves: not as the villains in the story of human rights, but as the champions. Continue reading “Writing Human Rights into the History of State Socialism”