A Conversation & Book Party for Neda Atanasoski, with Lisa Rofel & Shelley Stamp
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Humanities 1, rm 320
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.
Neda Atanasoski is an Associate Professor in the Feminist Studies Department at UCSC. Her research and teaching interests are in the areas of U.S and Eastern European media and cultural studies, with a focus on the politics of religion and sexuality, postsocialism, human rights and humanitarianism, and war and nationalism.
Professor Atanasoski’s current research project, in collaboration with Kalindi Vora (UCSD), takes up the relationship between notions of the “network” and “revolution” in the postsocialist era as they assess the ethical frames and moral imperatives undergirding current-day modes of waging war, biomedical modes of extending life, and understanding the politics of dissent and consent that both use and critique the “revolutionary” technologies associated such social and political shifts of our postsocialist era.