F – Solidarities, internationalisms, and global movements

At the intersection of minority rights: Global history, internationalisms, and the in- and exclusion of “marginal” groups

Event Details

  • Date

    Sunday, 28 June - 9:00 – 11:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    F – Solidarities, internationalisms, and global movements
Convenor
  • Paul van Trigt (Leiden University)
Chair
  • Monika Baar (Leiden University)
Commentator
  • Monika Baar (Leiden University)
Panelists
  • Francesca Piana (University of Geneva)
  • Zsófia Lóránd (University of Cambridge)
  • Linde Lindkvist (University College Stockholm)
  • Paul van Trigt (Leiden University)

Papers

  • Francesca Piana
    Re-Birthing Humanity. Women Humanitarians in Europe, 1914-1923

    Re-Birthing Humanity. Women Humanitarians in Europe, 1914-1923

    This paper spurs from a research project on the history of gender and humanitarianism in 20th century European international history. In the long First World War, the humanitarian needs of populations in Europe and in the Eastern Mediterranean region required the work of women engaged in nursing, medicine, and humanitarian aid. The paper aims at examining the parallel trajectories of three women humanitarians: Ruth A. Parmelee, an American missionary doctor (1885-1973) who provided medical relief to post-Genocide Armenian women and Greek refugee women; Suzanne Ferrière, a Swiss humanitarian (1886-1970), who volunteered for the International Agency for Prisoners of War of the Red Cross in Geneva; and Anna Ruth Fry, a British Quaker (1878-1972), who did advocacy work for the London-based Friends War Victims Relief Committee. The paper argues that by physically and metaphorically re-birthing societies—or metaphorically re-giving life to people under distress— women humanitarians played a maternalist role, fueled by class and racist dynamics, and carved a place for themselves in the world. While the literature on the history of humanitarianism has proved that the drive to alleviate the suffering of people in need was often discriminatory and embedded with imperialist goals, combining gender with humanitarianism allows challenging dichotomist categories of empowerment and oppression, showing how women humanitarians navigated the fine lines within the two.
  • Zsófia Lóránd
    Feminist Dissent and Women’s Rights as Human Rights in Socialist Yugoslavia

    Feminist Dissent and Women’s Rights as Human Rights in Socialist Yugoslavia

    The discourse and activism against violence against women (VaW) in Yugoslavia entered the public space and was framed as a serious problem and one of the indicators of the unfulfilled promise of gender equality because of the work of a small feminist dissenting group. Inspired by the feminist movements in North America and Western Europe and learning from their encounters with other activists from all over the world, including “Third World” countries, the problematisation of VaW allowed the new Yugoslav feminists to criticise both the socialist regime and patriarchy, and at the same time to connect to the growing international feminist as well as the human rights movement. This paper will explore the relations between the new Yugoslav feminists and the state, negotiations, actions and reactions on both sides. The context of state socialism and its women’s emancipation agenda is especially important. Many of the state socialist policies provided rights for women unimaginable in the “West”, whereas exactly due to the set agenda and framework of what women’s rights mean this context made new and different approaches difficult, if not impossible. The feminist dissenting group in Yugoslavia became active at a time when human rights became a focal point for dissident movements in East Central Europe, while the concept had already been broadly used by the state socialist regimes themselves. This presentation will focus on the various uses of the concepts of women’s rights, human rights and women’s rights in the state socialist, the dissident and the feminist vocabulary.
  • Linde Lindkvist
    The Making of Children’s Human Rights

    The Making of Children’s Human Rights

    This paper will address the history of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. While the history of this document has been the subject of multiple studies, most accounts focus on the convention’s place in a wider history of childhood. In contrast, this paper shows that the convention must be approached as a product of international human rights politics in the 1970s and 1980s: the drafting process was conditioned by concurrent developments in international human rights politics, such as the negotiations on the Convention Against Torture, and Cold War tensions on to the relation between different “generations” of human rights. The negotiations also raised both familiar and novel questions about the character of international human rights law, such as the role of the state, the legitimate grounds for restricting rights, the relation between human rights and other fields of international law, and whether human rights violations could take place in the private sphere.
  • Paul van Trigt
    Rights and Disability Internationalism since the 1960s

    Rights and Disability Internationalism since the 1960s

    With the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2006, disabled persons are “officially” included in humanity and disability can no longer be ignored as an issue of human rights and international law. This paper will present a genealogy of the UNCRPD without the assumption that a human rights perspective on disability is self-evident. On the contrary, this paper will “follow” the concept of human rights in the United Nations disability policy since the 1960s and argue that there was no linear trajectory towards the UNCRPD – as is often suggested. Based on case studies of two disability self-advocates, Fatimah Shah from Pakistan (1914-2002) and Theresia Degener (1961-) from Germany, this paper will discuss how, by whom and why a human rights perspective on disability was brought to the fore. The trajectory of disability as a human rights issue that will arise from these cases, will be situated in the recent debates about human rights and international law among historians.

Abstract

In this panel, we will explore an intersectional approach to the history of minority rights. Recently, scholars working on the history of internationalisms and the rights of minorities have been arguing that since the end of the 19th century the Western world has used law as an instrument for colonial, imperial, or semi-imperial domination over “less civilized” areas of the world. Therefore the protection of minorities in the international sphere is often seen as an instrument of the “West” to impose its “progress” on the rest of the world. This narrative could be criticized and made more complicated by an approach in which an analytical category such as gender or ethnicity challenges us to put the “West” in one framework with other parts of the world. Research from this perspective points at the agency of historical “marginal” actors and the entanglement of global and local histories in the international sphere. Women for instance, have used their international humanitarian work to advance their political, social, and economic rights at home. The innovative contribution of this panel to the existing historiography lies in bringing together the histories of different minorities (women, children and people with disabilities) and in studying the intersection of different categories. We are interested to analyze which power dynamics relegated these minorities to the condition of minority and which actors concurred in bringing their claims to the international sphere. Through a series of case-studies covering the whole of the 20th century, we aim to uncover processes of in- and exclusion in Europe and beyond.