Category Archives: Sessions 2017-2018

Looking forward to politicide

Merav Amir (Assistant Professor of Human Geography at Queen’s University Belfast)

21 February 2018, 17:00-19:00, Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been haunted for decades by the prospect, real or imagined, of political annihilation. The current talk claims that to understand the unfolding of the discursive formations, as well as the spatial dimensions of conflict and control in Israel/Palestine, we should explicate the workings of this prospect of annihilation through the concept of politicide. Despite its broad potential applicability, politicide as a concept within political thought has not received much scholarly attention thus far. This talk therefore aims to revisit this concept, following its definition by Uradyn Bulag (2010). For Bulag, who elaborates on the use of this concept by Baruch Kimmerling (2003), politicide denotes a wide spectrum of processes, ranging from the social and cultural to the military, which are intended to deny national communities the possibility of realizing their aspirations for self-determination, and sabotaging the prospects of their existence as a polity.

Despite the prevalence of visions of a bi-national existence prior to the 1948 war, the establishment of the State of Israel has construed the conditions of enmity between Israelis and Palestinians as a zero-sum game, hinged on the logic of non-recognition. Both sides repudiated the national rights for statehood of their counterpart, and defined their own territorial aspirations as conflicting the other nation’s demands. This changed in 1988 when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) declared itself reconciled with the existence of the State of Israel, a recognition which was reciprocated with an Israeli recognition of the Palestinians’ rights for statehood in the Oslo Accords of 1993. Thus, for all intents and purposes, the Oslo Accords were a game-changer in this regard and should have rendered the question of the annihilation of the rights for statehood for both nations obsolete. Yet, as the historical existential threat to the existence of the State of Israel increasingly plagues Israeli politics, and the actual establishment of the Palestinian state is perpetually deferred, the spectacle of politicide still dominates regional politics. Focusing on the role of politicide within Israeli politics, this analysis suggests that the insistence that the State of Israel is under threat of extinction should be understood as a speech act, a performative reiteration, which serves to validate national Israeli aspirations. The assertion of Israeli nationalism in this manner is increasingly gaining centre-stage as the ongoing actual politicide of the Palestinians leads Israel towards a de-facto be-national future.

Minority Protection and the Foundations of Human Rights

León Castellanos-Jankiewicz (Law Max Weber Fellow)

22 January 2018, 17:00-19:00, Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

This work builds on the idea that human rights originate from group protection standards developed after the Great War. A close reading of minority protection instruments and the League of Nations practice suggests that the 1919 peace midwifed contemporary human rights. Most accounts highlight the break between the League and the United Nations in the wake of war, neglecting the experiences of the past. Our thesis bridges the discourse by arguing that human rights are consecutive to minority rights in substance. It also advances that the employment of equality as a legal standard of protection was seamlessly transposed from minority rights to human rights. The principle of equality between minorities and majorities informed the League regime and was embraced by the Permanent Court of International Justice, arbitral tribunals and mixed claims commissions. After the Second World War, the 1948 Universal Declaration merely expanded the scope of application of the previous regime to all individuals equally, regardless of group membership. Thereafter, individual equality acquired a prominent role in human rights instruments, and the prohibition of certain forms of discrimination became a peremptory norm of international law.

These avenues of research have seldom been travelled, perhaps because individual rights overtook group concerns after 1945. Moreover, the ideological bipolarity of the cold war meant that the scholarly landscape of international law was dominated by enquiries on the relationship between individuals and the state well into the 1990s. But the rationale of group protection predates individual rights in law by at least a century, so it is odd that commentators bend over backwards to label individual rights as timeless when pre-Charter experience proves the exact opposite. An important vocation of our study is to disambiguate these experiences and provide clarity by circumscribing ourselves to interwar law and practice. To further understand why individualism became the main horizon of human rights after 1948 we describe the demise of the principle of nationalities embedded in the League’s structure that appeased states with national minorities abroad by recognizing groups as such. The outbreak of the Second World War rendered European nationalism increasingly toxic after 1945, and protecting groups became less viable as a matter of legal policy. Consequently, most studies highlight the rupture with group protection that was evident by 1950 to dismiss the minorities regime as irrelevant and buttress the singularity of human rights. Far from seeing such a paradigmatic shift after 1945, we weave past into present by following the sustained preservation of the international life of rights inaugurated by the League, and the legacy of interwar group equality that was universalized into the sphere of human rights today.

Call for proposals for the 2017-2018 Academic Year

The Nationalism  Working Group is an interdisciplinary framework for the discussion of current research projects in the field of nationalism, as well as the most recent developments in the scholarly assessment of this complex phenomenon. We intend to cover theoretical, conceptual and empirical research on nationalist movements, sub-state nationalism, citizenship, colonialism and anti-colonial movements, diaspora nationalism, nationalist ideology and indifference, border studies and many other fields and problems in the past or in the present.

We strongly encourage the participation of students and scholars working on nationalism in all its forms, and we would like to invite those who are interested in presenting their work or interested in the fields of nationalism to contact the working group coordinator: Benoit Vaillot.