Open Access (free)
James Baldwin and the Ethics of Trauma

This essay proposes that we turn to James Baldwin’s work to assess the cost of, and think alternatives to, the cultures of traumatization whose proliferation one witnesses in contemporary U.S. academia. Beginning with some recent examples, the essay briefly places these cultures into a genealogy of onto-ethics whose contemporary forms arose with the reconfiguration of diasporic histories in the idioms of psychoanalysis and deconstructive philosophy in 1990s trauma theory. Baldwin speaks to the contemporary moment as he considers the outcome of trauma’s perpetuation in an autobiographical scene from “Notes of a Native Son.” In this scene—which restages Bigger Thomas’s murderous compulsion in Native Son—he warns us against embracing one’s traumatization as a mode of negotiating the world. In foregoing what Sarah Schulman has recently called the “duty of repair,” such traumatized engagement prevents all search for the kind of “commonness” whose early articulation can be found in Aristotle’s query after “the common good” (to koinon agathon). With Baldwin, the present essay suggests the urgency of returning to the question of “the common good”: while mindful of past critiques, which have observed in this concept’s deployment a sleight-of-hand by which hegemonic positions universalize their interests, we should work to actualize the unfinished potential of Aristotle’s idea. Baldwin’s work on diasporic modernity provides an indispensable archive for this effort.

James Baldwin Review

with a basic consensus on American exceptionality that previously united American elites. It is possible to list the main premises synthetically, without necessarily following the order of their presentation in the strategy: the international system is a space of permanent competition for power between sovereign states, which are responsible for the construction of a peaceful world order; the world is made up of strong, independent and sovereign nations, with their own cultures, values, ideas and dreams; American values are not universal and, though

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

) ’, Boundary 2 , 20 : 3 , 65 – 76 . Dussel , E. ( 2008 ), Twenty Theses on Politics ( Durham, NC : Duke University Press ). Grosfoguel , R. and Cervantes-Rodriguez , A. M. ( 2002 ), ‘ Introduction: Unthinking Twentieth-century Eurocentric Mythologies: Universal Knowledge, Decolonization, and Developmentalism ’, in Grosfoguel , R. and Cervantes-Rodriguez , A. M. (eds), The Modern/Colonial/Capitalist World-System in the Twentieth Century: Global Processes, Antisystemic Movements, and the

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Editor’s Introduction

progress’ ( White House, 2017: 4 ). Renouncing progressive historical narratives, the Trump administration signals the end of the ‘American century’ and discards the particular universalism that has sustained liberal order. Posing direct, if distinct, challenges to US power, China and Russia do not seek to create an alternative to the multilateral system. On the contrary, they now become defenders of the institutions of liberal order, pointing to the humanitarian hypocrisy of the US. But as they vie for leadership of the multilateral system, they

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
An Interview with Celso Amorim, Former Brazilian Foreign Minister

being marginalised by globalisation. JF: So what role will humanitarian ideas and human rights – so prominent in the 1990s in particular – play in international affairs? CA: I think we need to rescue this discourse. Recognising its partiality and inconsistency, I never thought that we should destroy it but rather strengthen it. The Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council was a Brazilian idea! Even before the government of [President Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva], when I was foreign minister, Brazil, recognising partiality in the

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Governing Precarity through Adaptive Design

the Middle East and the ongoing dispossessions resulting from the expanding mega-corridors themselves. For the World Bank, the crisis of urban renewal negatively impacts precariat bandwidth. Having to daily exert a great deal of mental energy just to access such basic necessities as food and clean water means the precariat ‘are left with less energy for careful deliberation than those, simply by virtue of living in an area with good infrastructure and good institutions’ ( ibid .: 13). Thus, the absence of a universal fixed grid ‘like piped

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Humanitarianism in a Post-Liberal World Order

for at least eighty years. Consider, for example, the canonical statement of modern humanitarianism, the seven fundamental principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. Under ‘humanity’, the Red Cross talks of ‘assistance without discrimination’ and of its purpose as being ‘to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being’. The ‘impartiality’ requirement says: ‘It [the Red Cross] makes no discrimination as to

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Uses and Misuses of International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Principles

unique entity, neither public nor private, a legal category unto itself – neither an NGO nor an IGO. It has its own constraints and its own logic of action, which do not apply to other humanitarian organisations. That is one – but not the only – reason to question the universal validity of the principles it sets out. The other, more important, reason has to do with the vagueness of those principles, which lend themselves to contradictory interpretations and, because they are thrown about indiscriminately, prevent our understanding of the real situation. We will now

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Staff Security and Civilian Protection in the Humanitarian Sector

principle of humanity that motivates humanitarian action ( Slim, 2015 : 56). Yet the analysis of staff security and civilian protection in this article shows that, in professionalising these two fields of practice, the humanitarian sector has come to reinforce the very inequality it seeks to challenge. A paradox lies at the heart of international humanitarianism, a project that is centrally defined by equality and universality at one and the same time as the idea of helping and saving distant others implies a clear distinction and inequality between ‘the life that is

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
From the Global to the Local

Commission on Palestine – UNCPP) mandated to fulfill the international community’s obligations towards Palestinian refugees displaced and dispossessed by the partition of Palestine in 1948. The exclusion of Palestinian refugees from the ‘universal’ refugee regime – the 1950 Statute of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the 1951 Refugee Convention – and the international community’s failure to secure a political solution to ensure Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return enshrined in UNGA Resolution 194, has meant that

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs