[Reader-list] SociologySeminar at SAU: Dr. Yasmeen Arif

Diya Mehra diyamehra at hotmail.com
Mon Apr 13 00:57:07 CDT 2015

Department of Sociology, South Asian University cordially invite you to a


and Punishment in International Law: Humanity as the Final Sovereign?

by Yasmeen
Arif, Delhi School of Economics


Wednesday, 15 April 2015, 2.30 pm, FSI Hall, South Asian University,
Akbar Bhawan,

Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 


Abstract: The afterlife of the Civil War in Sierra
Leone presents a specific focus in this discussion - the workings of the
Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL), their negotiations with International
Criminal Law against a larger backdrop of international justice mechanisms and
Crimes against Humanity. The SCSL informs the processes of how a construction
of humanity is made possible, and also how that intervention furthers a sense
of how humanity is argued for as final
normative principle in terrains of international criminal jurisprudence. The workings of the court allow the unique
opportunity of exploring how exactly notions of humanity come to be negotiated
with punishable crime and in effect, brought into applicable law – for
instance, how the notion of ‘command responsibility’ allows the prosecution and
conviction of individuals even when
the situation is of mass criminality. It may well be said then that
humanity, in international criminal law works as the contemporary figure of the
sovereign - the global community upholds humanity as a sovereign, one that will
in fact, stand above state sovereignty. 
Offences against this humanity ultimately justify and validate
punishment for those found ‘most responsible’. I suggest that humanity retains an
instability or a weakness that arises from its qualitative inchoateness and
which achieves meaning only in its transgressions. On the other hand, what
emerges from these workings of humanity as sovereign is the figure of life sustained as an affirmed value –
even as a sacrality that is pitched
against the profanity of the accused.
This expression depends less on acts of inhumanity but progresses more on the
possibility of affirming versions of life. I suggest this alterity in concept
in understanding crimes against humanity and the meaning of punishment –
eventually as a response to the larger question on a politics of life. 

Yasmeen Arif is
an Associate Professor in Sociology and conducts research on urban studies,
visual and material cultures, humanitarianisms, critical theory, philosophy and
method in social anthropology. She has held positions at the University of
Minnesota (Twin Cities); CSDS, Delhi and the American University of Beirut,
Lebanon. Her work has been published in the International
Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Domains: International Journal of
Ethnic Studies, Journal of the World Anthropological Network, Economic and
Political Weekly and others 


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