The New Humanitarianism
General Catalog Course Title:
Special Topics in Cultural Anthropology/Area Anthropology
Terms Offered:
Spring 2015
Course Thread: 
Human Rights
Ong, Aihwa

By 'humanitarianism' we mean intervention into the problem of humanity at home and abroad. In debates on humanitarianism, an early focus on human rights is expanding to include the invention of humanity as a target of political action. The new humanitarianism is fundamentally about the government of threat and care, and the abiding tensions between transnational virtue and situated/national forms of claims and protection. The course is divided into three sections: humanitarianism & governing; transnational systems of virtue; and biological claims of citizenship.

Part 1 explores theories about the problem of humanity as the government of well-being, whereby humanitarian interventions center on care for and threat to populations lacking protections of citizenship. Part 2 tracks the spread of transnational virtue in the form of N-S humanitarianism -- social entrepreneurship, global health, financial aid, and volunteer tourism -- that shape sentiments of 'global citizenship." Part 3 explores humanity as a biological object, as biological claims and contributions become central to the meaning of citizenship. In the liberal pursuit of civic virtue overseas, emerging regions are becoming the sites for our humanitarian experiments, and not always to their social benefits.


For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.