4 and 5 December 2015
Why do we care? Humanitarianism has had a bad press for most of its history. Recent historiography has pointed out the ways in which the nineteenth-century imperial state used humanitarian ethics as part of its rational for interventions across the world. But, since then, humanitarian ethics has also infused and shaped institutions beyond the state, like international organizations and international law. In the 1970s, but especially after the end of the Cold War, representations of human suffering have become commonplace in the moral economy of the contemporary world. This Berliner Colloquium zur Zeitgeschichte asked what the genealogies of humanitarian ethics tell us about its possible moral, political and economic dilemmas today. What form of governance is created through scenarios of humanitarian emergencies? Where do the histories of neoliberalism, human rights, and humanitarianism intersect? By extension, how is the mobilization of empathy with human suffering in our time fundamentally different from its historical precursors?
Conference language was English.