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The Exhaustion of Humanitarianism?

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Organizer: Luis Fernando Restrepo

Co-Organizer: Carlos Gardeazabal Bravo

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Although in Humanitarian Reason  Didier Fassin argued that humanitarianism is a defining element of the present era, articulating concerns for vulnerable populations worldwide, there are conspicuous events in recent decades that suggest that the humanitarian era-- which began with the 18th century emancipatory and abolitionist movements-- may be reaching a point of exhaustion where many are denied  basic human rights, as Judith Butler argued in Precarious Lives.   Among these unfavorable events are how the world watched the Rwandan genocide and the repression in Tiananmen Square, the endless and secret detention of prisoners after 9/11 in Guantanamo and several black sites, violating all the Geneva conventions for the treatment of prisoners of war.  Also, the indefinite detention of refugees in camps, the criminalization of asylum seekers, and the massive incarceration of subaltern populations, in addition to the resurgence of racial and gender violence and the emergence of unapologetic fascist and white supremacy movements.    On the optimistic side, we would like to include the emergence of new solidarity projects, the strength of caravans and sea crossings affirming human dignity and life --regardless of national borders, the Me too, Black lives matter and other social justice movements.    We seek proposals that examine different humanitarian situations across the globe, the poetics of compassion, the possibilities and limitations of narrative empathy, the resurgence of xenophobic, racist and sexist discourses, and proliferation of rogue states and the collapse of the just war theory. Proposals can consider the following questions as possible starting points, without being limited by them: How do literary and artistic works rethink and problematize humanitarianism, or invite to construct new interpretations of it? What are the new roles of humanitarianism in cultural productions related with ecocides or the capitalocene in general? How do literary/cinematic/ artistic representations of humanitarian interventions intersect with affect theory? How could these representations of humanitarianism deconstruct certain identitarian politics? How do cultural productions enable new connections between humanitarianism and trauma?  Interested participants may contact the seminar co-organizers Luis Fernando Restrepo ( and Carlos Gardeazabal ( Please submit abstracts (300 words) via the ACLA website.  

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