Photo: Resolute Support Media
30 Mar 2017

Humanitarian Militarism and Border Security: Contemporary Challenges

Humanitarian militarism is a concept relatively new. Going to war to protect human rights is a contemporary phenomenon that has re-defined the scope of traditional war beyond nation-states conflicts. Particularly since the Kosovo war in the 1990’s, the lines between humanitarian and military interventions have been blurred. Humanitarian militarism complicates matters even on a government level: “How do soldiers perceive themselves in the military humanitarian framework?,” “How do they motivate their participation in humanitarian missions?,” “What impact does participation in military humanitarian operations have on soldiers’ lives?,” “Does their participation in humanitarian operations impact other military activities?” These questions are currently at the forefront of Antonio De Lauri's mind. 

Antonio De Lauri is a social anthropologist who recently joined us at CMI. Antonio comes to CMI from the University of Milan-Bicocca where he was lecturer of Cultures and Societies of the Middle East.

-What is special about CMI is the opportunity to work in multidisciplinary teams. Working at CMI also makes it possible to combine theory and practice. I strongly feel that social sciences research should be ground based and publicly engaged, and that theories must be faced with practices from below, says De Lauri.

His current work focuses on humanitarian militarism from the perspective of European soldiers and the global history of walls and fences.

When the international community intervened in Afghanistan in 2001, the moral justification was to protect Afghan women and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. But the international community also had great ambitions on behalf of the Afghan state. Foreign troops and government policies were going to help train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and to assist in rebuilding key government institutions. The international community’s efforts in Afghanistan since 2001 is a prime example of humanitarian militarism.

- The imperative to help countries with humanitarian aid has become strictly interlinked with military governance. In the past few years we have witnessed a proliferation of the military ethos. Soldiers are at the center of conflicting forces, and are often portrayed through binary alternatives: as agents of military force, the emblem of state power, and as saviors, says De Lauri.

De Lauri has interviewed Italian and French soldiers who have been involved in humanitarian missions in countries like Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and will continue to work on the concept of humanitarian militarism and extend his ethnographic research and interviews to Norwegian soldiers.

He is also working on a new project focused on the anthropology of protection in which he is studying border security and the global history of walls and fences.   

Name: Antonio De Lauri
Discipline: Social anthropology
Research interests: Legal anthropology, bondage, freedom, war, humanitarianism, border barriers
Geographic orientation: Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East