Didier Fassin will discuss his book Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present (Berkeley, 2011) in conversation with Lawrence Cohen (Anthropology), R. Jay Wallace (Philosophy), and Tehila Sasson (History). Moderated by Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann (History). All are welcome.
In the face of the world’s disorders, moral concerns have provided a powerful ground for developing international as well as local policies. This book draws on case materials from France, South Africa, Venezuela, and Palestine to explore the meaning of humanitarianism in the contexts of immigration and asylum, disease and poverty, disaster and war. It traces and analyzes recent shifts in moral and political discourse and practices — “humanitarian reason”— and shows in vivid examples how humanitarianism is confronted by inequality and violence. Illuminating the tensions and contradictions in humanitarian government, the studies presented reveal the ambiguities confronting states and organizations as they struggle to deal with the intolerable. This critique of humanitarian reason, respectful of the participants involved but lucid about the stakes they disregard, offers theoretical and empirical foundations for a political and moral anthropology.
Didier Fassin is the James Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study and Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. He was the founding director of the Interdisciplinary Research Institute for Social Sciences and vice-president of Médecins Sans Frontières. His current project (http://morals.ias.edu) is a contribution to an anthropology of the state, exploring the political and moral treatment of disadvantaged groups, more specifically immigrants, refugees and minorities, through a study of police, justice, and prison. In parallel, he continues his inquiry into the intersection between the moral and political spheres around humanitarianism and asylum, and develops a reflection on the challenges and potentialities of a public ethnography. His recent publications include : Contemporary States of Emergency (with M. Pandolfi, Zone Books, 2010) and Moral Anthropology (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) as editor; The Empire of Trauma. An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood (with R. Rechtman, Princeton University Press, 2009), Humanitarian Reason. A Moral History of the Present (University of California Press, 2011) and Enforcing Order. An Ethnography of Urban Policing(Polity Press, 2013), as author.
Additional information about this and other Berkeley Human Rights Program events is available at http://ugis.ls.berkeley.edu/hri/content/berkeley-human-rights-program-2013-14-speaker-series