Being Humane in a Global Era: Neohumanitarian Rationality, Power and Culture

John Woolsey

Advisor: Alison Landsberg, PhD, Department of History and Art History

Committee Members: Amal Amireh, Paul Smith

Johnson Center, B
April 08, 2013, 12:00 PM to 09:00 AM


This dissertation critically examines dominant notions of humane conduct and citizenship in post-Cold War and post-9/11 America. Treating humanitarianism as an operation of governmentality and site of struggle over what it means to be humane in a global era, I examine how the recent militarized integration of the liberal technologies of human rights, developmentalism and humanitarian relief are central to a vast array of projects (political, economic, and cultural) that enact the “global” as a spatio-temporal terrain to be managed and secured through acts of interventionary violence. I argue that neohumanitarian rationality—a prevalent and at times dominant Western modality of thinking about and responding to distant suffering and conflict—forecloses upon ethical and political acts of solidarity with distant others by picturing them as always already known objects of moral and technical knowledge.