Fourth Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA)

Fourth Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA)

Fabian Klose / Johannes Paulmann, Leibniz Institute of European History; Andrew Thompson University of Exeter; International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva; German Historical Institute London
United Kingdom
Vom - Bis
09.07.2018 - 20.07.2018
Fabian Klose / Johannes Paulmann, Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz; Andrew Thompson, University of Exeter

The Steering Committee received a huge amount of applications for the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) 2018 from around the world and selected twelve fellows (nine PhD candidates, three Postdocs). The participants came from Canada, China, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States and represented a range of disciplinary approaches from History, International Relations, and Political Science. Additionally, the GHRA was joined by GUY THOMAS (Geneva), IRÈNE HERRMANN (Geneva), STACEY HYND (Exeter), MARC-WILLIAM PALEN (Exeter), and ANDREAS GESTRICH (London).

On day one, the participants started with discussing crucial texts on the historiography of humanitarianism and human rights. The common reading list included texts regarding the historical emergence of humanitarianism since the eighteenth century and the troubled relationship between humanitarianism, human rights, and international humanitarian law. Furthermore, the participants reflected on twentieth century conjunctures of humanitarian aid and the colonial entanglements of human rights as well as recent scholarship on the genealogies of the politics of humanitarian protection and human rights since the 1970s. In the evening, MARCUS GEISSER (London), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) UK, gave his stimulating public guest lecture “The ‘present’ is never present – it is already past. Humanitarian action in an age of reorder” at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum Exeter, in which he reflected on his personal experiences as an ICRC delegate for twenty years in various conflicts around the world.

During day two, the fellows presented their PhD- and Postdoc-projects and discussed them with their peers. These projects represented the richness of research recently undertaken by a new generation of scholars who are set to make a critical contribution to both fields of the history of humanitarianism and human rights.

The discussed topics included issues of the origin of security specialists within the humanitarian field and the effects of this professional transformation (MONIQUE BEERLI, Oakland); the medical humanitarian action at times of emergency and the shift from crisis to development, with case studies of Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria and Palestinian camps in Jordan (JENNIFER CARR, Glasgow); the history of the German Red Cross in the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany after 1945 (RYAN HEYDEN, Hamilton); the ban of weapons and the development of armed conflict laws from the nineteenth century to the present (ELENA KEMPF, Oakland); the contested legacies of the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in mid-twentieth century debates about race and empire (EMMA MACKINNON, Cambridge); the emergence of the concept of collective human rights in the 1970s and 1980s (CHRISTOPH PLATH, Berlin); the history of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and the humanitarian mobilization of the world between 1914 and 1919 (ELISABETH PILLER, Trondheim); the work of American humanitarian aid organizations in French internment and concentration camps during the Second World War (MEGHAN RILEY, Bloomington); the emergence of a worldwide refugee policy between 1950-1970 (JAKOB SCHÖNHAGEN, Freiburg); the interaction of transnational humanitarian organizations, notably the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, with local actors in post- Second World War China between 1944 and 1949 (JIAYI TAO, Bristol); the colonial legacies in the practical delivery of humanitarian aid within the peacekeeping missions of the United Nations during the Cold War period (MARGOT TUDOR, Manchester); displacement in historical perspective by focussing on technologies of identification, apparatus, and assemblages (REBECCA VINEY-WOOD, Manchester).

The stimulating discussion was enriched by IRÈNE HERRMANN (Geneva), as well as STACEY HYND and MARC PALEN (both Exeter).

In the morning of day three, the conveners of the GHRA offered the opportunity for individual tutorials to all fellows. The GHRA continued with a guest lecture by GUY THOMAS (Geneva), who is Head of Library and Public Archives of the ICRC. In his lecture “Humanitarianism for the Record: the ICRC’s Library and Public Archives” he gave valuable insights into the structure and rich material of the ICRC archives, thus preparing the fellows for their archival research during the second week in Geneva.

In the afternoon SAUL DUBOW (University of Cambridge) held a stimulating guest lecture on the topic “The Strange Rise and near Death of Human Rights and Constitutionalism in South Africa”, in which he presented a sharp analysis of more than two hundred years of rights discourse in South African history.

Day four and five were reserved to work on new entries for the Online Atlas on the History of Humanitarianism and Human Rights.[1] The open access publication of the Online Atlas consists of an interactive world map displaying locations in Africa, America, Asia, Australia and Europe, where important events took place and shaped significantly the development of humanitarianism and human rights. The fellows from successive years are contributing each year with their entries to this publication, thus connecting the GHRA and their research to a broader public.

After the first week of scholarly debate and academic training at the University of Exeter, the GHRA 2018 travelled for a week of research, training and discussion with ICRC members to the Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.

The first day at Geneva started with an introduction to the public archives and library resources by ICRC staff. BRIGITTE TROYON BORGEAUD (Geneva), Head of Archives and
Information Management Division, welcomed all participants and gave an intriguing overview of the ICRC archives. FABRIZIO BENSI (Geneva), ICRC Archivist, and DANIEL PALMIERI (Geneva), ICRC Historian, described the structure of the archives and explained the development of its holdings. FANIA KHAN MOHAMMAD (Geneva), ICRC Archivist, then presented the Tracing Archives of the ICRC and showed how the tracing service is working up today. Some of the GHRA participants even used the tracing service to research on the fate of relatives during World War II.

Furthermore, VÉRONIQUE ZIEGENHAGEN (Geneva) introduced the library with its encompassing publications on international humanitarian law, human rights, humanitarian action, international conflicts and crises.

The second day was reserved for individual research, so that the GHRA fellows could start to work intensively at the archives and library. The staff members assisted them fully in tracing archival sources relevant for their individual PhD- and Postdoc-research. The students discovered the rich material in documents. In the afternoon SABINE HABERLER KREIS (Geneva) and MARINA MEIER (Geneva) introduced the fellows to the excellent collection of photographs, films and sound material in the ICRC Archives, which are also available online.[2]

After having more research time in the morning of the Third Day, the afternoon was dedicated to a dialogue in the “Humanitarium” with YVES DACCORD (Geneva), the Director General of the ICRC. In his presentation Daccord talked about his rich experiences as an ICRC delegate in various conflicts since 1992 and gave intriguing insights into his work as acting Director General since 2010 on ICRC policies and future strategies of the organization.

On day four the fellows had the chance to talk to JEAN-MARIE HENCKAERTS (Geneva), head of the ICRC project to update the commentaries on the Geneva Convention of 1949 and the additional protocols of 1977. In addition, various issues on the development of international humanitarian law and the challenges in recent times were discussed.

After an intense debate, CÉDRIC COTTER (Geneva), former fellow of the first GHRA in 2015 and now member of the ICRC, talked about his experiences as a law and policy researcher at the ICRC law and policy forum. In the debate with the GHRA participants, it became obvious that the long-term relations which the ICRC established in crisis regions make historical knowledge and research highly relevant to recent humanitarian action.

The GHRA concluded the fifth day with a feedback discussion on the past two weeks and an overall assessment of Research Academy programme 2018. After two intensive and enjoyable weeks in Exeter and Geneva, the fellows of the GHRA 2018 will stay connected with each other through the work on their joint project of the Online Atlas of the History of Humanitarianism and Human Rights to which they will all submit an entry by the autumn.

The next GHRA will take place from 8 July to 19 July 2019. The first week this time, like in 2017, it will be held at the Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz and the second week again at the ICRC in Geneva.[3]

Conference Overview:

GHRA Academic Conveners

Fabian Klose (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz)

Johannes Paulmann (Leibniz Institute of European
History Mainz)

Andrew Thompson (University of Exeter)

ICRC Geneva

Fabrizio Bensi (Archivist)

Sabine Haberler Kreis (Photo and Sounds Archivist)

Fania Khan Mohammad (Archivist)

Marina Meier (Film Archivist)

Daniel Palmieri (Historical Research Officer)

Guy Thomas (Deputy Head of Library and Public Archives)

Brigitte Troyon Borgeaud (Head of Archives and
Information Management Division)

Véronique Ziegenhagen (Librarian)

Guest Lecturers

Cédric Cotter (ICRC Geneva)

Yves Daccord (Director General of the ICRC)

Saul Dubow (Cambridge University)

Marcus Geisser (ICRC, London)

Jean-Marie Henckaerts (ICRC Geneva)

Guy Thomas (ICRC Geneva)

GHRA Participants

Andreas Gestrich (German Historical Institute London)

Irène Herrmann (University of Geneva)

Stacy Hynd (University of Exeter)

Marc-William Palen (University of Exeter)

GHRA Fellows

Monique Beerli (University of California)

Jennifer Carr (University of Glasgow)

Ryan Heyden (McMaster University, Canada)

Elena Kempf (University of California)

Emma Mackinnon (University of Cambridge)

Christoph Plath (Freie Universität Berlin)

Elisabeth Piller (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim)

Meghan Riley (Indiana University)

Jakob Schönhagen (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)

Jiayi Tao (University of Bristol)

Margot Tudor (University of Manchester)

Rebecca Viney-Wood (University of Manchester)

[1]Fabian Klose / Johannes Paulmann / Andrew Thompson (eds.), Online Atlas on the History of Humanitarianism and Human Rights, <> (16.10.2018)
[2]International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC Audiovisual Archives, <> (16.10.2018)
[3]A Call for Application will be published in October this year, on the blog Humanitarianism Human Rights (<>), the Imperial & Global Forum (<>), and the GHRA webpage (<>) (all 16.10.2018).

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