Saving friends or saving strangers? Critical humanitarianism and the geopolitics of international law

Moore, T. 2013. Saving friends or saving strangers? Critical humanitarianism and the geopolitics of international law. Review of International Studies. 39 (4), pp. 925-947.

TitleSaving friends or saving strangers? Critical humanitarianism and the geopolitics of international law
AuthorsMoore, T.
Abstract

What can critical geopolitics contribute to an understanding of the political dynamics of humanitarianism within International Relations? This article demands a reconsideration of the concept of humanitarianism by examining the spatial ordering of international society and the geopolitics of international law that condition our understanding of humanitarian agency and conduct within IR. The focus on critical geopolitics seeks to identify the normative structure of humanitarianism and how humanitarian claims – which are seemingly universal – are constituted through specific geopolitical discourses that structure agency and conduct within international life. Considering how humanitarianism is discursively structured as a geopolitical concept involves taking humanitarianism beyond its methodological privileging of impartiality, neutrality, and universality in making sense of humanitarianism. Critical humanitarianism does not accept the grounding of humanitarianism within an intuitive moral framework but instead locates humanitarian agency and conduct within a spatialised understanding of the international system. Such a spatialised ordering of humanitarianism takes the analytical focus away from ‘saving strangers’ (Wheeler) and ‘global conscience’ (Linklater) towards a consideration of the ways in which international law is the product of historical particulars that reflect a complex political sociology of the state (Schmitt).

JournalReview of International Studies
Journal citation39 (4), pp. 925-947
ISSN0260-2105
YearOct 2013
PublisherCambridge University Press
FileMoore_2013_as_published.pdf
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1017/S0260210512000368
Publication dates
PublishedOct 2013

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