On the political implications of innocence, humanitarianism and the new political imaginary of equality

The discourse of innocence and purity, the visual tropes of traumatized children and mothers dominate the humanitarian and public engagement with the issue of migration and refugees. In this episode, Miriam Ticktin, the chair of Anthropology at the New School, discusses political implications of using the concept of innocence as a moral compass to order our responses to refugee “crises” and other instances of mass human suffering. She traces the post-1968 depoliticization of  humanitarianism and its offer of innocent others as safe, (politically) untarnished moral subjects. The language of innocence creates and reproduces the hierarchies that are foundational of modern humanitarian structures, the ‘armed love.’ Ticktin invites us to abandon such vocabularies and technologies that create new systems of categorization, to move beyond humanitarianism itself and seek new political possibilities that imagine true equality.    

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Anderson, Bridget, Nandita Sharma, and Cynthia Wright. 2011. “Editorial: Why No Borders?” Refuge 26 (2): 5–18.

Boltanski, Luc. 1999. Distant Suffering: Morality, Media and Politics. Translated by Graham Burchell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Butler, Judith. 2009. Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? London: Verso Books.

Calhoun, Craig. 2010. “The Idea of Emergency: Humanitarian Action and Global (Dis) Order.” In In Contemporary States of Emergency: The Politics of Military and Humanitarian Interventions, edited by Didier Fassin and Mariella Pandolfi, 29–58. New York: Zone Books.

Fassin, Didier. 2010. “Inequality of Lives, Hierarchies of Humanity: Moral Commitments and Ethical Dilemmas of Humanitarianism.” In In the Name of Humanity: The Government of Threat and Care, edited by Ilana Feldman and Miriam Ticktin, 238–255. Durham: Duke University Press.

Feldman, Ilana. 2011. “The Humanitarian Condition: Palestinian Refugees and the Politics of Living.” Humanity 3 (2): 155–172.

Giordano, Cristiana. 2014. Migrants in Translation: Caring and the Logics of Difference in Contemporary Italy. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Hathaway, James. 2008. “The Human Rights Quagmire of ‘Human Trafficking.’” Virginia Journal of International Law 49 (1): 1–59.

Malkki, Liisa. 1996. “Speechless Emissaries: Refugees, Humanitarianism, and Dehistoricization.” Cultural Anthropology 11 (3): 377–404.

Rancière, Jacques. 2010. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. London: Continuum International.

Ticktin, Miriam. 2017. “Invasive Others: Toward a Contaminated World,” Social Research: An International Quarterly 84(1), xxi-xxxiv.

Ticktin, Miriam. 2016. “Thinking Beyond Humanitarian Borders.” Social Research: An International Quarterly 83(2), 255-271. Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved January 19, 2019, from Project MUSE database.

Ticktin, Miriam. 2011a. Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France. Berkeley: University of California Press.


CREDITS

Production team: Mia Marzotto, Julia W. De MontRemy, Zahra Mustamand, Everita Silina
Music: original music by Pablo Altar (Intro/Outro); “extract of an improvisation” by Pablo Altar (Music Break)

Recorded in May 2018

Release Date: January 2019