History 280U.001

Spring 2011
2505 Tolman
Day & Time: 
W 2-5P

The course will ask the general question ";what is humanitarianism?"; It will develop answers by engaging primary as well as secondary sources, both contemporary and historical, mostly but not entirely European and north American, that address two distinct but related domains. The first of a public nature: the relationship of humanitarianism to culturally specific understanding of ";'human;'"; the development of humanitarianism with respect to human rights and the specific legal obligations of the modern human rights regime; the purported status of humanitarianism as being above politics, for example. All of these issues and more we will study in specific contexts and crisis: anti-slavery, the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders and so on. The second domain is more intimate: we will examine humanitarianism as an aspect of the making of the ethical subject from the eighteenth to the twenty first century by examining both general theoretical works and specific case studies of individuals and groups.

In addition to weekly readings and active seminar participation each student or group of students will be asked to develop an research dossier on a particular group or cause and present findings to the seminar.


This course is co-taught by Professor Seth Koven, Rutgers University.