Humanitarian Violence: The U.S. Deployment of Diversity

By Neda Atanasoski

Neda Cover

When is a war not a war? When it is undertaken in the name of democracy, against the forces of racism, sexism, and religious and political persecution? This is the new world of warfare that Neda Atanasoski observes in Humanitarian Violence, different in name from the old imperialism but not so different in kind. In particular, she considers U.S. militarism—humanitarian militarism—during the Vietnam War, the Soviet-Afghan War, and the 1990s wars of secession in the former Yugoslavia.

What this book brings to light—through novels, travel narratives, photojournalism, films, news media, and political rhetoric—is in fact a system of postsocialist imperialism based on humanitarian ethics. In the fiction of the United States as a multicultural haven, which morally underwrites the nation’s equally brutal waging of war and making of peace, parts of the world are subject to the violence of U.S. power because they are portrayed to be homogeneous and racially, religiously, and sexually intolerant—and thus permanently in need of reform. The entangled notions of humanity and atrocity that follow from such mediations of war and crisis have refigured conceptions of racial and religious freedom in the post–Cold War era. The resulting cultural narratives, Atanasoski suggests, tend to racialize ideological differences—whereas previous forms of imperialism racialized bodies. In place of the European racial imperialism, U.S. settler colonialism, and pre–civil rights racial constructions that associated racial difference with a devaluing of nonwhite bodies, Humanitarian Violence identifies an emerging discourse of race that focuses on ideological and cultural differences and makes postsocialist and Islamic nations the potential targets of U.S. disciplining violence.

$25.00 paper ISBN 978-0-8166-8094-8
$75.00 cloth ISBN 978-0-8166-8093-1
280 pages, 10 b&w photos, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, December 2013

Ronald D. Schwartz Circle of Protest: Political Ritual in the Tibetan Uprising 1987-1992. NY: Columbia, 1994.

This ethnography chronicles the Tibetan uprisings against occupying China in the late 1980s and early 1990s, noting that most of these insurrections took place in the form of religious practice. While Chinese occupation greatly compromised Tibetan Buddhist practice in Tibet, Tibetan peoples fiercely guard this tradition as essential to their Tibetan identities. Schwartz’s first hand accounts of civil disobedience and other forms of protest among Tibetans reveal that the leaders and organizers of these actions were young Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns.

Film: Tibet’s Cry for Freedom. thinkFilms

Description from Amazon:

“Inspired by a burning passion to raise awareness of the Tibetan freedom struggle and using the Beijing Olympics as the springboard, first time filmmaker Lara Damiani quit her job, sold her clothes and furniture, maxed out several credit cards, used her life savings, grabbed a camera and embarked on a journey across India, Tibet and Beijing, interviewing the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Prime Minister in exile, Chinese dissident and pro-democracy activist Wei Jingsheng, former political prisoners who’d spent up to 27 years in prison, and many more. Tibet’s Cry for Freedom explores both past and present in Tibet’s long suffering non-violent freedom struggle. Learn the truth from the Dalai Lama about Tibet’s real history and ponder the future of a nation whose time is fast running out. Understand why China’s grip on Tibet is so tight, hear true stories of human rights abuses and listen to why many believe the 2008 Olympics should never have been held in Beijing. Tibet’s story from the time of the Chinese occupation through to the uprisings in Tibet that shocked the world in March 2008 is told. Learn about the human rights abuses, political persecution and environmental destruction of this land known as “The Roof of the World.”

Wounded Knee PBS: We Shall Remain—American Experience series

Description from PBS website:

On the night of February 27, 1973, fifty-four cars rolled, horns blaring, into a small hamlet on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Within hours, some 200 Oglala Lakota and American Indian Movement (AIM) activists had seized the few major buildings in town and police had cordoned off the area. The occupation of Wounded Knee had begun. Demanding redress for grievances—some going back more than 100 years—the protesters captured the world’s attention for 71 gripping days.

With heavily armed federal troops tightening a cordon around meagerly supplied, cold, hungry Indians, the event invited media comparisons with the massacre of Indian men, women, and children at Wounded Knee almost a century earlier. In telling the story of this iconic moment, the final episode of We Shall Remain will examine the broad political and economic forces that led to the emergence of AIM in the late 1960s as well as the immediate events—a murder and an apparent miscarriage of justice—that triggered the takeover. Though the federal government failed to make good on many of the promises that ended the siege, the event succeeded in bringing the desperate conditions of Indian reservation life to the nation’s attention. Perhaps even more important, it proved that despite centuries of encroachment, warfare, and neglect, Indians remained a vital force in the life of America.