Humanitarian Ethics, Religious Affinities, and the Politics of Dissent

Our Religion in Diaspora and Global Affairs Humanities Studio, titled “Humanitarian Ethics, Religious Affinities, and the Politics of Protest,” investigates transnational faith-based networks organized in response to and out of the tensions that have arisen between visions of the political, social and cultural good pursued by secular human rights and humanitarian organizations and those pursued by religious humanitarian networks. Through graduate student writing workshops, conversations with global scholars and journalists (including our participation in online forums organized by our journalist members), as well as more traditional formats including a day-long symposium, over the last two years we have orchestrated conversations around religiosity, secular value systems, humanitarian ethics and the politics of dissent by focusing on specific, but variously localized, global and transnational religious associations and organized networks.

As a starting point for engaging these conversations, we have been working on a website, “The Politics of Humanitarianism and Religion.” It is designed as a web portal that seeks to generate conversations and debates among university-level undergraduate and graduate students and faculty around the intersections of humanitarianism and religion. It is meant as a forum for cross-campus dialogs and as a public platform for students and faculty to produce short, accessible, yet insightful commentary on historical and contemporary instances of religious and secular notions of the humanitarian good. Our goal is to intervene in predominant U.S. imaginaries of global crisis that relegate “atrocity” and “religious conflict” to the

Global South, while producing the U.S. and its European allies as humanitarian actors par excellence. Rather than pitting human rights and humanitarian intervention against religious fundamentalism, then, we instead wish to consider how religious affiliations and movements are in conversation with and are themselves humanitarian actors, and how religious organizations may produce alternate visions of justice and the common good.

For more information, please see the studio’s site.

Studio Participants:

Neda Atanasoski is an Associate Professor of Feminist Studies and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies and an affiliate faculty in Film and Digital Media and Digital Arts and New Media at The University of California at Santa Cruz. She is the author of Humanitarian Violence: The U.S. Deployment of Diversity (University of Minnesota Press 2013). Atanasoski has also published articles on gender and religion, nationalism and war, human rights, and new media, which have appeared in journals such as the European Journal of Cultural Studies, the Journal of American Culture, Catalyst and Feminist Theory, as well as in anthologies.

Mariam Lam is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Southeast Asian Studies Research Program at UC Riverside. She specializes in Southeast Asian and diasporic literary and visual cultures, and Viet Nam. She has secondary interests in Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines. She researches in global cultural studies, postcolonial criticism, gender and sexuality, cinema, translation, tourism, community politics, media and educational development, and academic disciplinarity. She is founding co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Vietnamese Studies (U of California P). Publications include Vietnamese Americans: Lessons in American History (2001; 2004), Southeast Asian/American Studies (positions Winter 2012, Duke UP), and the forthcoming monograph Not Coming to Terms: Viet Nam, Post-Trauma and Cultural Politics (Duke UP).

Natalie Avalos is Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at Connecticut College. She is an ethnographer of religion whose research and teaching focus on Native American and Indigenous religions in diaspora, healing historical trauma, decolonization and social justice. She has explored the religion and resistance movements of transnational Native American and Tibetan peoples.

Andrew Lam is an editor with New America Media and the author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora and East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres. His latest book, Birds of Paradise Lost, was published March, 2013.

Cecelia Lynch is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies, University of California, Irvine. She is an expert on international relations, religion and ethics, social movements and civil society and has researched and published extensively on topics related to peace, security, international organization, globalization, humanitarianism, and religion. Professor Lynch won the 1999 Furniss Award, which is given by Mershon Center for International Security to an author whose first book makes an exceptional contribution to the study of national and international security, and was co-winner of 1998-99 Myrna Bernath Award from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, both for Beyond Appeasement: Interpreting Interwar Peace Movements in World Politics (Cornell University Press). Her other books include Law and Moral Action in World Politics (co-edited with Michael Loriaux, University of Minnesota Press, 2000), and Strategies for Research in Constructivist International Relations (with Audie Klotz, M.E. Sharpe, 2007), which is currently being translated into Korean. She also edits the blog, She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University in New York City.

Angilee Shah is the social media manager at Public Radio International. She has spent most of her career writing long pieces (for magazines) and short posts (on Twitter) about politics and culture. She has reported from across Asia, including China, Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and on diverse cultures across the US, from Southern California to Minneapolis. She is the co-editor of Chinese Characters (UC Press, 2012) and a consulting editor to the Journal of Asian Studies.

Leshu Torchin is a Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of St Andrews, where she works on the subject of film and human rights advocacy. Her work has appeared in Third Text, and Cineaste. She is the author of Creating the Witness: Genocide in the Age of Film, Video and the Internet (University of Minnesota Press, 2012.)