Open Access (free)
Jeffrey Flynn

Lasse Heerten’s brilliant book on Biafra is Spectacles of Suffering. He remarks on the double meaning of the word spectacles in the concluding paragraph. When conflicts or disasters are transformed into global media events, they become spectacles. But it is also a synonym for eyeglasses – the spectacles of suffering are the lenses themselves, through which, in this case, Western observers see distant suffering. A central focus of Heerten’s book is how, for a brief few months in the summer of

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
The promotion of human rights in international politics
Author: M. Anne Brown

This book argues for greater openness in the ways we approach human rights and international rights promotion, and in so doing brings some new understanding to old debates. Starting with the realities of abuse rather than the liberal architecture of rights, it casts human rights as a language for probing the political dimensions of suffering. Seen in this context, the predominant Western models of right generate a substantial but also problematic and not always emancipatory array of practices. These models are far from answering the questions about the nature of political community that are raised by the systemic infliction of suffering. Rather than a simple message from ‘us’ to ‘them’, then, rights promotion is a long and difficult conversation about the relationship between political organisations and suffering. Three case studies are explored: the Tiananmen Square massacre, East Timor's violent modern history and the circumstances of indigenous Australians. The purpose of these discussions is not to elaborate on a new theory of rights, but to work towards rights practices that are more responsive to the spectrum of injury that we inflict and endure.

Open Access (free)
The shock of Hart Island, New York
Sally Raudon

When drone footage emerged of New York City’s COVID-19 casualties being buried by inmates in trenches on Hart Island, the images became a key symbol for the pandemic: the suddenly soaring death toll, authorities’ struggle to deal with overwhelming mortality and widespread fear of anonymous, isolated death. The images shocked New Yorkers, most of whom were unaware of Hart Island, though its cemetery operations are largely unchanged since it opened over 150 years ago, and about one million New Yorkers are buried there. How does Hart Island slip in and out of public knowledge for New Yorkers in a cycle of remembering and forgetting – and why is its rediscovery shocking? Perhaps the pandemic, understood as a spectacular event, reveals what has been there, though unrecognised, all along.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
A Military Tactic or Collateral Damage?
Abdulkarim Ekzayez and Ammar Sabouni

, advocacy and grass-roots health governance. Suffering under the severe resource constraints of war and a stunted international response, they have adapted through innovation, role shifting and resilience. The type of role local healthcare workers have played has been dictated largely by geopolitical changes over the course of the conflict ( Bdaiwi, forthcoming ). In government-controlled Syria, at the start of the conflict, healthcare workers attended to wounded protestors and helped torture victims. With the militarisation of the conflict and the development of non

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Visual Advocacy in the Early Decades of Humanitarian Cinema
Valérie Gorin

Introduction When looking at the history of visual humanitarianism, one surprisingly realizes that film history has only scarcely been covered, while scholarly interest has increased in humanitarian campaigns on digital media ( Cottle and Cooper, 2015 ). Yet, debates that emerged in the 1980s about the paradigm of distant suffering, immersion and chronotopic engagement by means of communication technologies, such as virtual reality, remain to be examined through historical patterns. In the age of mass communication, aid agencies turned very early to motion

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Positioning, Politics and Pertinence
Natalie Roberts

, but had justified continuing to intervene primarily to alleviate suffering ( Redfield, 2015 ). During the West African outbreak, disagreement arose about the prospect of MSF’s actions meeting even those ambitions. Some doctors ( McNeil, 2015 ; MSF, 2016a ) felt that MSF care protocols prohibiting the use of intravenous fluids both missed an opportunity to attempt to increase survival and did not go far enough to relieve suffering. Rony Brauman, a

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Lessons Learned from an Intervention by Médecins Sans Frontières
Maria Ximena Di Lollo, Elena Estrada Cocina, Francisco De Bartolome Gisbert, Raquel González Juarez, and Ana Garcia Mingo

( Comas-Herrera et al. , 2020 ). A report published in November 2020 by the COVID-19 and Care Homes Working Group suggested that deaths in care homes may have contributed to approximately 50 per cent of all deaths ( Ministerio de Derechos Sociales y Agenda 2030 , 2020 ). As MSF was involved at the beginning of the response when fatalities were high, we witnessed first-hand the suffering of the care home residents, families and staff – something that was

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Michael A. L. Broyles

In this mixture of memoir, reflection, and scholarship, the author details how, during a time of suffering, James Baldwin and singer Celia Cruz helped him understand his tense relationship with his toxic paternal grandparents and celebrate the reclamation of his stifled Mexican heritage.

James Baldwin Review
Benoît Pouget

Based on a study of intersecting French archives (those of the Val de Grâce Hospital, the Service Historique de la Défense and the Archives Diplomatiques), and with the support of numerous printed sources, this article focuses on the handling of the bodies of French soldiers who died of cholera during the Crimean War (1854–56). As a continuation of studies done by historians Luc Capdevila and Danièle Voldman, the aim here is to consider how the diseased corpses of these soldiers reveal both the causes and circumstances of their deaths. Beyond the epidemiological context, these dead bodies shed light on the sanitary conditions and suffering resulting from years of military campaigns. To conclude, the article analyses the material traces left by these dead and the way that the Second Empire used them politically, giving the remains of leaders who died on the front lines of the cholera epidemic a triumphant return to the country and a state funeral.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Presumed black immunity to yellow fever and the racial politics of burial labour in 1855 Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia
Michael D. Thompson

Epidemic disease regularly tore through nineteenth-century American cities, triggering public health crises and economic upheaval. These epidemic panics also provoked new racialised labour regimes, affecting the lives of innumerable working people. During yellow fever outbreaks, white authorities and employers preferred workers of colour over ‘unacclimated’ white immigrants, reflecting a common but mistaken belief in black invulnerability. This article chronicles enslaved burial labourers in antebellum Virginia, who leveraged this notion to seize various privileges – and nearly freedom. These episodes demonstrate that black labour, though not always black suffering or lives, mattered immensely to white officials managing these urban crises. Black workers were not mere tools for protecting white wealth and health, however, as they often risked torment and death to capitalise on employers’ desperation for their essential labour. This history exposes racial and socioeconomic divergence between those able to shelter or flee from infection, and those compelled to remain exposed and exploitable.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal