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The Humanitarian Civilian

November 8, 2021

12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

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Austin Hall; 101 Classroom - East

At this talk, Dr. Rebecca Sutton, a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the University of Edinburgh Law School, will discuss her new book, The Humanitarian Civilian. In international humanitarian law (IHL), the principle of distinction delineates the difference between the civilian and the combatant, and it safeguards the former from being intentionally targeted in armed conflicts. The Humanitarian Civilian explores how the idea of distinction circulates within and beyond IHL. Taking a bottom-up approach, the multi-sited study follows the idea of distinction from South Sudan to civil-military training spaces to Geneva and the Hague. Directing attention to international humanitarian actors—such as those working for the International Committee of the Red Cross, NGOs, and UN humanitarian agencies—the book shows that these actors seize upon signifiers of ‘civilianness’ in everyday practice. To safeguard their civilian status and to deflect any qualities of ‘combatantness’ that might affix to them, humanitarian actors strive to distinguish themselves from other international actors in their midst. The latter include peacekeepers working for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and soldiers who deploy with NATO missions. Crucially, some of the distinctions enacted cut along civilian-civilian lines, suggesting that humanitarian actors are longing for something more than civilian status—the “civilian plus.”

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November 8, 2021, 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

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