Muscular Humanitarianism: Reading the Narratives of the New Interventionism

TitleMuscular Humanitarianism: Reading the Narratives of the New Interventionism
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsOrford, Anne
JournalEuropean Journal of International Law
Date Published04/1999

As a result of the decision by NATO to use force in response to the Kosovo crisis, issues about the legality and morality of humanitarian intervention have again begun to dominate the international legal agenda. This article explores the ways in which international legal texts about intervention operate at the ideological or representational level. It draws on feminist and post-colonial theories of subjectivity and identification to suggest that the desire to intervene militarily in cases of crisis is a product of the deeper narratives and flows of meaning within which texts about intervention are inserted. The narratives of the new interventionism create a powerful sense of self for those who identify with the hero of the story, be that the international community, the Security Council, NATO or the United States. As a result, these narratives operate not only in the realm of state systems, rationality and facts, but also in the realm of identification, imagination, subjectivity and emotion. The article explores some of the implications for international lawyers of the recognition that their arguments about intervention have effects at this personal and subjective level.

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