Author: aknaap

Apply now to become an Editor-at-Large

We welcome applications for the position of Editors-at-Large from graduate students and advanced undergraduates. The Toynbee Prize Foundation’s Global History Blog features a mix of long-form interviews with global historians, historiographical pieces, and short-form material of interest to our readers: job posts, cross-postings from other blogs, and recently published articles. Editors-at-Large will gain exposure to one…

CFP: Bids for Autonomy in the Condition of Globality (Columbia University, 13-14 April 2018)

In the nineteenth century, globalization acquired a new intensity which has persisted until this day. As the world became more integrated and interconnected, successive attempts were made by states, peoples, social movements, religions, classes, corporations and regions to assert their autonomy against real and prospective forms of domination, discipline and uniformity imposed by exterior forces and…

CFP: Contested Borders? Practising Empire, Nation and Region in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (London, 26-28 April 2018)

For scholars interested in the historical practice of belonging in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, please see the following call for papers. Abstracts are due by 16 October 2017:   Conference at the German Historical Institute London, 26–28 April 2018 Brexit, the Basque country, Kashmir – the drawing of social and spatial boundaries, the question…

Call for Contributions: Global South Studies

Global South Studies, a digital platform sponsored by the Global South journal, is soliciting contributions. See Dr. Anne Garland Mahler’s introduction to the Global South heuristic here (and excerpted below): The Global South as a critical concept has three primary definitions. First, it has traditionally been used within intergovernmental development organizations –– primarily those that originated…

CFP: The Munich Crisis and the People: International, Transnational and Comparative Perspectives (Sheffield, 29-30 June 2018)

The Munich Crisis and the People: International, Transnational and Comparative Perspectives Humanities Research Institute (HRI), University of Sheffield, 29-30 June 2018 Recent events in international politics have highlighted the intricate interconnectedness between diplomatic crises and public opinion, notably public expressions of emotion. As the 80th anniversary of the Munich Crisis approaches, this conference will revisit…

CFP: Amidst Empires: Colonialism, China and the Chinese (Adelaide, Australia, 29-30 January, 2018)

For readers interested in the history of China’s place in the world, see this call for papers for a conference to be held at Flinders University from 29-30 January, 2018. 200-word abstracts are due by 1 November 2017: Amidst Empires: Colonialism, China and the Chinese, 1839-1997 Flinders University, Adelaide 29 & 30 January, 2018. Like other…

Fifth European Congress in World and Global History opens today in Budapest

The fifth European Congress in World and Global History opens today in Budapest. Organised by the European Network in Universal and Global History, the Central European University and Corvinus University and hosted together with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Hungarian Historical Association, the event brings together some 650 scholars, students, and professionals working on…

Acts of Faith: Talking Religion, Law, and Empire with Dr. Anna Su

Religious freedom is back in the news. Just last week, the State Department released its report on religious freedom for 2017. Speaking at its unveiling, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged solidarity with a diverse group of persecuted religious groups: Iranian Baha’is and Christians, Chinese Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists, Pakistani Ahmadiyya Muslims, Saudi Arabian Shia Muslims, and Turkish non-Sunni Muslims, among others. Government officials did not miss the opportunity to extol the US’s “long, strong tradition”  of promoting religious freedom abroad.

No sooner than these announcements were made, reporters began pointing out the gap between rhetoric and reality. In a series of blistering questions, journalists underscored inconsistencies in the administration’s stated prioritization of persecuted Christian refugees; the restrictions on travelers from several majority-Muslim countries; the politicization and selectivity of its interventions; and the absence of any self-reflexivity, particularly in relation to spikes in hate crimes directed at American Muslims. China promptly followed suit, questioning America’s moral authority on religious freedom amid white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville.

The history of America’s interest in religious freedom abroad is the focus of Dr. Anna Su’s first book, Exporting Freedom: Religious Liberty and American Power (2016). As Su shows, the US has a long history of intervening in countries on behalf of religious freedom. Su tracks the development of official government policies toward religious freedom: first as part of its “civilizing mission” in the Philippines from 1898, then in the democratization of Japan after World War II, and finally through the championing of human rights in Iraq and elsewhere. Working at the intersection of history and law, Su is currently Associate Professor in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. She previously earned an SJD from Harvard Law School, and worked as a law clerk for the Philippine Supreme Court and a consultant to the Philippine government negotiating panel with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Su presented at the Harvard International & Global History Seminar earlier this year. While she was in town, the Foundation caught up with Su to discuss the shifting valences of religious freedom and American empire, as well as the benefits and dangers of watching historical films starring Tommy Lee Jones.

Aden Knaap

Human Rights and the Global South: A Conversation with Steven L. B. Jensen

Dr. Steven L. B. Jensen

Human rights are facing perhaps their greatest challenge yet. After a failed military coup in July last year, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has led a purge of the country’s central institutions. A much-contested referendum in April only expanded Erdoğan’s stranglehold on the government. Over a similar timeframe, Erdoğan’s Filipino counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte, has spearheaded a devastatingly brutal antidrug campaign, sanctioning the extra-judicial killing of thousands of suspected drug users and sellers. In Egypt, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has imprisoned members of the political opposition, arrested human rights activists, and outlawed many aid organizations. Meanwhile, the United States—traditionally considered human right’s earliest and greatest champion—has seen the election of President Donald Trump. According to a tally compiled by Amnesty International, in just one hundred days in office, Trump threatened human rights in at least as many ways.

Viewed from today’s perspective, it might seem like it’s only recently that the US has ceded global leadership on human rights. But, as Dr. Steven L. B. Jensen shows in his book The Making of International Human Rights: The 1960s, Decolonization, and the Reconstruction of Global Values (2016), the history of human rights was never simply a story of American or Western hegemony. Moving the locus of study to Jamaica, Ghana, the Philippines, Liberia and beyond, Jensen argues that human rights were as shaped from within the Global South as they were from without. In Jensen’s words, actors from the Global South “gave a master class in international human rights diplomacy to both the Eastern and the Western actors.”

Many scholars struggle to connect with non-academic audiences. In his work and in his writings, Jensen straddles the border between academia and international policymaking with comparative ease. Currently a researcher at the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Jensen is the author and editor of multiple books and articles. Prior to completing his PhD at the University of Copenhagen, he worked in international development: first at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Southern Africa, and later for the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Geneva. His PhD thesis was published as The Making of International Human Rights last year. Since then, he’s been on something of a roll. Most recently, his book received the Human Rights Best Book Award and the Chadwick Alger Prize for the best book on international organization from the International Studies Association.

The Toynbee Prize Foundation was lucky enough to chat with Jensen during a recent visit to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jensen was in town to attend a workshop on socioeconomic rights convened by Professors Samuel Moyn and Charles Walton at Harvard Law School. Jensen spoke about human rights’ origins in the Global South, how exactly he came to be known as the “Jamaica guy,” and what the future holds for human rights scholarship.

Aden Knaap