Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Barbara Harlow

ProfessorPh.D., 1977, SUNY- Buffalo

Barbara Harlow



Imperialism and Orientalism, Literature and Human Rights/Social Justice, 19th Century Novel, European Novel, Middle East Studies, African Studies, The ''Global South''


College: Liberal Arts

Home Department: English

Additional department affiliations: Middle Eastern Studies

Education: Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo

Research interests:
Third world studies; critical theory; prison and resistance writings and postcolonial studies (particularly Anglophone African and modern Arabic literatures and cultures)


MES 386 • Lit Wrnts: Palestn/Chile/Libya

42633 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm CAL 200
(also listed as C L 382, E 397N)

“Universal Jurisdiction”:  Literary Warrants from Palestine, Chile, and Libya

Once upon a time (or “imagine,” if you will) there were three worlds, or at least since 1952 when French pundit Alfred Sauvy allegedly coined the term “third world” to designate, after the fashion of the 1789 French revolutionary “third estate,” those geopolitical spaces that were then neither “capitalist“ (first world) nor “communist” (second world). Representatives of the “third world” convened in Bandung in 1955 to chart a working agenda for the prospects of their decolonizing, eventually national, agendas. According to Roland Burke (2010), the Bandung Conference provided a “revolutionary influence of decolonization” on “human rights history.” That same “human rights history,” however, remains ever more contested today – at once challenged and revered from whatever is left of the erstwhile “three worlds.” I plan to examine those continued critical challenges and their attendant contemporary obeisances by way of three continuing cases represented in literary and documentary narrative and located in three geopolitical contexts: Palestine, Chile, and Libya: 1. the question of Palestine – from the “right of return” as narrated in Ghassan Kanafani’s Palestinian novellas Men in the Sun (1962) and Returning to Haifa (1969) to the human rights violations documented in the Goldstone Report on Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” (2009); 2. the Pinochet extradition, with reference to Latin America’s “dirty wars” and the age of truth commissions, as painfully and painstakingly depicted in Chilean Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden (1990-91) and Exorcising Terror (2002); and 3. the controversy over the International Criminal Court and Africa, with special focus on the controversial ICC indictments in 2011 of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and their historical background as described by South African Ruth First in Libya: The Elusive Revolution (1974) and Libyan Hisham Matar’s novels In the Country of Men (2006) and Anatomy of a Disappearance (2011). How, in other words, might the once upon a time imagined Bandung agenda of non-alignment find popular renewal – or neoliberal obstruction – in the lexicon and storytelling of universal jurisdiction and the litigiously literary narratives of international adjudication?


Ghassan Kanafani. Men in the Sun and Returning to Haifa

Ariel Dorfman. Death and the Maiden and Exorcising Terror

Ruth First. Libya: The Elusive Revolution

Hisham Matar. In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance

+ “paraliterary” readings from legal studies, history, cultural studies, etc

UGS 302 • Humanitarian Aid Workers-W

64620 • Fall 2009
Meets TTH 1100-1230pm MAI 220C


Barbara Harlow  /  Fall 2009  /  T/Th 11-12.30
Office Hours: M 1-3 (Rapoport Center, Law School), T 12.30-2/Th 12.30-1.30 (Parlin 26) and by appointment


“Responsibility to protect” (or R2P) is yet another formulation for “humanitarian interventionism.” What difference does it make? Our readings of the personal accounts of aid workers and advocates will attempt to address some of the challenges, crises, contradictions, recriminations – and rewards – entailed by the “responsibility to protect.”

Selected readings include:

  • Another Day in Paradise: Front Line Stories from International Aid Workers
  • Mahvish Rukhsana Khan. My Guantanamo Diary: The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me (translator)
  • Jonny Steinberg. Sizwe’s Test: A Young Man’s Journey Through Africa’s AIDS Epidemic (journalist)
  • Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures (UN aid workers)
  • David Kennedy. The Dark Sides of Virtue: Reassessing International Humanitarianism (law professor)
  • Clea Koff. The Bone Woman (forensic anthropologist)

For more information, please download the full syllabus.

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