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Conference
Humanitarianism and the Remaking of International Law: History, Ideology, Practice, Technology


Danang. Réfugiés s'étant organisés dans la cour de l'école. Photographer: Michel Schroeder, ICRC Archives

Danang. Réfugiés s'étant organisés dans la cour de l'école. Photographer: Michel Schroeder, ICRC Archives

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The Call for Papers Has Closed.

The language and logic of humanitarianism occupy an increasingly central place in international law. Humanitarian reason has shaped the ideology, practice, and technologies of international law over the past century, including through the redescription of the laws of war as international humanitarian law, the framing of mass displacement and armed conflict as ‘humanitarian’ crises, the use of humanitarian justifications for intervention, occupation, and detention, and the representation of international law as an expression of the conscience of humanity.

For some, this trend is clearly positive – international law is reimagined as humanity’s law, humanity as the alpha and omega of international law. Yet critics have pointed to the dark side of these developments and of the humanitarian logic operating within international law, arguing that consolidation of the laws of war has served the interests of powerful groups and states at key moments of potential challenge to existing systems of rule, humanitarianism has been taken up as a language to rationalise the violence of certain forms of occupation, intervention, and warfare, international humanitarian law has displaced other more constraining forms of law as the world becomes imagined as a global battlefield, humanitarian NGOs have served as a fifth column that has enabled particular forms of social transformation and constrained others, and a supposedly impartial humanitarianism has displaced politics.

This conference will bring together scholars working in law, history, international relations, and political theory to think critically about the ideology, institutions, practices, and technologies that condition modern humanitarianism and its relation to international law. Confirmed speakers include Amanda Alexander, Leila Brännström, Markus Gunneflo, Helen Kinsella, Martti Koskenniemi, Dino Kritsiotis, Frédéric Mégret, Naz Modirzadeh, Gregor Noll, Rose Parfitt, Hani Sayed, Ntina Tzouvala, Boyd van Dijk, and Fabia Veçoso. Selected papers will be published in an edited collection by a leading publisher.

Possible topics for papers include:

  • laws of war and the social question
  • international humanitarian law and revolution
  • decolonisation and the remaking of international humanitarian law
  • humanitarian intervention and occupation in international law and history
  • humanitarian and securitisation responses to dispossession, displacement, and refugees
  • international humanitarian law and the framing of civil war
  • international humanitarian law and national liberation movements
  • incidents and events in the history of international humanitarian law-making
  • humanitarian law and human rights law in the 'global' battle space
  • humanitarian organisations and the politics of intervention
  • the relation of humanitarianism and counter-terrorism in international law
  • knowledge production and international humanitarian law
  • humanitarian law and visual culture 
  • international humanitarian law and practices of distinction
  • the technologies of humanitarian law and war
  • humanitarian law and algorithmic warfare
  • humanitarianism and the penal turn in international law
  • the meanings of humanitarian law across time and space
  • the political economy of international humanitarianism
  • critical geographies of international humanitarian law
  • international law after humanity

The call for papers has now closed. A full list of speakers and draft program will be available in December 2017.