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  • Cited by 6
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
October 2020
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Book description

This book explores the fluctuating relationship between human rights and humanitarianism. For most of their lives, human rights and humanitarianism have been distant cousins. Humanitarianism focused on situations in faraway places dealing with large-scale loss of life that demanded urgent attention whilst human rights advanced the cause of individual liberty and equality at home. However, the twentieth century saw the two coming much more directly into dialogue, particularly following the end of the Cold War, as both began working in war zones and post-conflict situations. Leading scholars probe how the shifting meanings of human rights and humanitarianism converge and diverge from a variety of disciplinary perspectives ranging from philosophical inquiries that consider whether and how differences are constructed at the level of ethics, obligations, and duties, to historical inquiries that attempt to locate core differences within and between historical periods, and to practice-oriented perspectives that suggest how differences are created and recreated in response to concrete problems and through different kinds of organised activities with different goals and meanings.


‘The fraught relationship between humanitarianism and human rights is brilliantly illuminated in this excellent collection. Many of the key figures in the contemporary discourse feature in the theoretical section of the book, but the strength of the volume rests equally on a series of well-crafted practical studies. Very highly recommended.'

Chris Brown - Emeritus Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science

‘A volume like this one was needed, expected and long overdue. It raises important questions, explores crucial issues, and provides useful answers on the vexata quaestio of the worlds of difference between humanitarianism and human rights. Scholars intertwine their multiple disciplinary optics, approaches and expertise in a fruitful dialogue.'

Davide Rodogno - The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

‘As the rise of nationalism and counter-terrorism measures threaten to stall or set-back progress made over the last century towards a universalization of human rights and humanitarian norms, this book offers a collection of rich, sometimes opposing, perspectives on the evolution and meaning of these ideals. It provides much needed intellectual sustenance to inform critical thinking and debate on how to uphold norms of humanity in these challenging times.'

Fiona Terry - Head of the ICRC's Centre for Operational Research and Experience (CORE)

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