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Refugees as Human Shields: In Conversation with Neve Gordon
From Hungary to the US-Mexico border all the way back to the Czech Republic, women-and-children seeking asylum have been cast as ‘human shields’. In this webinar, Neve Gordon will be talking with Anne Irfan about the history of human shielding, whilst highlighting the gendered and racial dimension of ‘refugee shielding.’ Why, Gordon will ask, has the figure of the human shield become so prominent in contemporary war zones throughout the Middle East? Why are asylum-seeking refugees suddenly cast as shields? And what does this figure tell us about the broader global history of political violence?
Neve Gordon teaches in the School of Law at Queen Mary University of London. Focusing on international humanitarian law, human rights, the ethics of violence, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Gordon first book, Israel’s Occupation (2008), provided a structural history of Israel’s mechanisms of control in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while his second book, The Human Right to Dominate (2015, with Nicola Perugini) examines how human rights, which are generally conceived as tools for advancing emancipation, can also be used to enhance subjugation and dispossession. In Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire (2020 also with Perugini), Gordon follows the marginal and controversial figure of the human shield over a period of 150 years in order to interrogate the laws of war and how the ethics of humane violence is produced. Gordon has also edited two volumes, one on torture (with Ruchama Marton) and the other on marginalized perspectives on human rights. Over the years he has published scores of academic articles and book chapters and is currently working on a project that examines how new warfare technologies challenge the underlying framework of the laws of war. Gordon has been a member at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, Brown University, the University of Michigan, and SOAS, and is currently a board member of the International State Crime Initiative.