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“We Are Human Beings:” Humanitarian Confinement, Refugee Bodies, and Human Rights

Aditi Surie von Czechowski

Title:
“We Are Human Beings:” Humanitarian Confinement, Refugee Bodies, and Human Rights
Author(s):
Surie von Czechowski, Aditi
Thesis Advisor(s):
Mitchell, Timothy
Date:
Type:
Theses
Degree:
Ph.D., Columbia University
Department(s):
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Persistent URL:
Geographic Area:
Tanzania
Abstract:
Focusing on humanitarian aid to refugees in the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Western Tanzania, this dissertation argues that humanitarianism has shifted from the care of the bodily and immediate material needs to a form of moral care inflected by contemporary human rights discourse. The camp, in operation for over 17 years, became the site of a pedagogical intervention aimed at teaching refugees human rights. Informed by essentialist understandings of Congolese culture, aid agencies enforce a version of human rights in which only women’s rights are human rights. Refugees respond to this in a variety of ways, by contesting, appropriating, or exiting the framework of rights entirely. In reading human rights discourse as a site for an anthropology of ethics, this dissertation argues against simply understanding humanitarian confinement in terms of biopolitics, and looks to black feminist theorizations of the “human” to gesture beyond human rights. It shows how Nyarugusu residents make claims based on bodily vulnerability to decolonize the “human” of “human rights,” and how, in doing so, they point us towards a politics of vulnerability grounded in an ethics of sincerity.
Subject(s):
Ethnology
Africans
Human rights
Humanitarian assistance
Refugees
Item views
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Suggested Citation:
Aditi Surie von Czechowski, , “We Are Human Beings:” Humanitarian Confinement, Refugee Bodies, and Human Rights, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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