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Humanitarian Violence

The U.S. Deployment of Diversity

Neda Atanasoski

Publication Year: 2013

When is a war not a war? When it is undertaken in the name of democracy, against the forces of racism, sexism, and religious and political persecution? This is the new world of warfare that Neda Atanasoski observes in Humanitarian Violence, different in name from the old imperialism but not so different in kind. In particular, she considers U.S. militarism—humanitarian militarism—during the Vietnam War, the Soviet-Afghan War, and the 1990s wars of secession in the former Yugoslavia.

What this book brings to light—through novels, travel narratives, photojournalism, films, news media, and political rhetoric—is in fact a system of postsocialist imperialism based on humanitarian ethics. In the fiction of the United States as a multicultural haven, which morally underwrites the nation’s equally brutal waging of war and making of peace, parts of the world are subject to the violence of U.S. power because they are portrayed to be homogeneous and racially, religiously, and sexually intolerant—and thus permanently in need of reform. The entangled notions of humanity and atrocity that follow from such mediations of war and crisis have refigured conceptions of racial and religious freedom in the post–Cold War era. The resulting cultural narratives, Atanasoski suggests, tend to racialize ideological differences—whereas previous forms of imperialism racialized bodies. In place of the European racial imperialism, U.S. settler colonialism, and pre–civil rights racial constructions that associated racial difference with a devaluing of nonwhite bodies, Humanitarian Violence identifies an emerging discourse of race that focuses on ideological and cultural differences and makes postsocialist and Islamic nations the potential targets of U.S. disciplining violence.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Difference Incorporated


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: The Racial Reorientations of U.S. Humanitarian Imperialism

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pp. 1-32

In 2012 the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which was founded by the United Nations Security Council in 1993 to adjudicate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 1990s wars of secession, announced its plans for completion in 2016. ...

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1 Racial Time and the Other: Mapping the Postsocialist Transition

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pp. 33-72

In 1991 the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who rose to fame at the height of the Cold War as the chronicler of the Kennedy administration’s days in the White House, published a controversial book on multiculturalism, The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society.1 ...

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2 The Vietnam War and the Ethics of Failure: Heart of Darkness and the Emergence of Humanitarian Feeling at the Limits of Imperial Critique

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pp. 73-101

The 2008 documentary An Unlikely Weapon: The Eddie Adams Story engages the life and work of the photojournalist made famous by his photograph capturing a Vietcong insurgent’s moment of execution at the hands of the Saigon police chief.1 Foregrounding Eddie Adams’s artistic genius not just in the field of war but across a range of human experiences, ...

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3 Restoring National Faith: The Soviet–Afghan War in U.S. Media and Politics

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pp. 102-127

In spite of being one of the decisive events that precipitated the demise of the Soviet Union and the Communist world, the Soviet–Afghan War (1979–1989) has been largely forgotten in the United States, having been overshadowed by America’s own imperial occupation of Afghanistan over the last decade. ...

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4 Dracula as Ethnic Conflict: The Technologies of Humanitarian Militarism in Serbia and Kosovo

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pp. 128-165

The American blockbuster Van Helsing (2004), a recent adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula (1897), introduces Dracula’s by-now-infamous homeland, Transylvania, with a surprising twist. In a black-and-white homage to Universal Studios’ monster pictures of the 1930s and 1940s, the film opens with a mob of angry peasants preparing to storm not Dracula’s castle ...

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5 The Feminist Politics of Secular Redemption at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

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pp. 166-199

The 2009 thriller Storm, which dramatizes the political intrigues of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, frames the search for postwar justice in international courts of law as a story about faith.1 The film begins at the moment a prosecutor at the Tribunal, Hannah Maynard, takes over a high-profile war crimes case against a Yugoslav National Army commander. ...

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Epilogue: Beyond Spectacle: The Hidden Geographies of the War at Home

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pp. 200-208

In the introduction to her book on the impact of the Yugoslav wars of secession on Bosnian women, Worlds Apart, former U.S. ambassador Swanee Hunt expresses serious concerns about the state of American democracy in the post-9/11 era. Presuming that it is the geopolitical responsibility of the United States to advance ethnic, religious, and women’s rights abroad, ...

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pp. 209-212

This project was conceptualized in the years immediately following 9/11. The urgent need to critique the ways in which the United States wages war and stakes its claims to empire in the post–Cold War era has motivated me over this last decade. ...


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pp. 213-250


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pp. 251-260

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About the Author

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Neda Atanasoski is associate professor of feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

E-ISBN-13: 9781452940069
E-ISBN-10: 1452940061
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816680948

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Difference Incorporated
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OCLC Number: 880531280
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Humanitarian Violence

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Humanitarianism -- United States.
  • Imperialism -- Social aspects.
  • United States -- Military policy -- Social aspects.
  • United States -- Foreign relations.
  • War and society -- United States.
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