Techno-Humanitarianism as an Emergent Regime

When and Where

Friday, January 26, 2024 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm
Jackman Humanities Building
170 St. George St. Toronto, ON M5R 2M8


Kamari Maxine Clarke
Jennifer Burrell
Sara Kendall


Join us for "Techno-Humanitarianism as an Emergent Regime" a public talk with Professors Kamari Maxine Clarke, Jennifer Burrell and Sara Kendall. This Public Talk is part of a 2023-2024 Andrew Mellon Sawyer Seminar titled “Evasion: Thinking the Underside of Surveillance.” 

About the talk:

Techno-humanitarianism presents a new paradigm for addressing violence and suffering. Bringing technological forms into a relationship with law and accountability mechanisms, it links advances in geospatial technologies, machine learning, and digital documentation with efforts to combat human rights violations and grave crimes. Yet these investments in techno-humanitarian forms also come up against law’s own technologies, which manifests in its gatekeeping role at the site of legal institutions. We explore three dimensions of techno-humanitarianism as well as the particular modes of knowing from which they derive:  (1) the relationship between science, technology and truth in the production of evidence; (2) the emergence of particular kinds of expertise to render technological interventions as comprehensible to judges and courts in institutions of international criminal law; and (3) the development of an ‘optics of seeing’ that makes visible particular events and truths while others are occluded. By examining the emergence of these domains of technology and knowledge production, together with the expert networks that are mobilized within the global North and South, we show how these constellations of projects, actors, technologies, and funding streams have converged to produce new horizons for accountability while furthering what we refer to as juridico-techno-scopic regimes.

About Professor Clarke:

Kamari Maxine Clarke is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Toronto. For more than twenty years, she has conducted research on issues related to legal institutions, human rights and international law, religious nationalism and the politics of race and globalization. She has spent her career exploring theoretical questions concerning culture and power and detailing the relationship between new social formations and contemporary problems.  One of her key academic contributions has been to demonstrate ethnographically the ways that legal and religious knowledge regimes produce practices that travel globally. In addition to her scholarly work, she has served as a technical advisor to the African Union (AU) legal counsel and produced policy reports to help the AU navigate various international law and United Nations challenges. Clarke has published nine books (3 monographs and 6 edited volumes) with over 50 peer-refereed journal articles and book chapters.  She is the author of Affective Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Pan-Africanist Pushback (2019, Duke), Fictions of Justice (Cambridge, 2010), and Mapping Yorùbá Networks (Duke, 2004). Clarke is the recipient of the 2019 Royal Anthropological Institute’s Amaury Talbot Book Prize, as well as the 2019 finalist for the Elliot Skinner book award for her latest book, Affective Justice (Duke, 2019). She is also a recipient of a Distinguished Chair in Transnational Justice sand Socio-legal Studies and a recipient of the 2021 Guggenheim Prize for career excellence.

About Professor Burrell:

I’m a sociocultural political anthropologist broadly interested in questions of power, structural and political violence, political economy, law, and the construction of inequalities. I conduct research in Guatemala, Mexico, Europe and the United States on migration, security, human rights, humanitarianism, and the state.

I am active in the fields of human rights, humanitarianism and development, and worked as a researcher for the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), a consultant to large development organizations and smaller NGOs, and I provide testimony for asylum cases. I strive to utilize the insights of social and political economic theory and ethnography to address practical and policy concerns.

About Professor Kendall:

Sara Kendall studies the discursive forms and material practices of international law and global governance. At Kent Law School she co-directs the Centre for Critical International Law and teaches at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. Beyond KLS, she is a research affiliate with University of California’s Promise Institute of Human Rights (US) and with the Centre for the Politics of Transnational Law at Vrije University Amsterdam (NL). She also serves on the editorial boards of the London Review of International Law, the Leiden Journal of International Law, and Humanity: an International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development.

Sara’s research addresses legal responses to – and complicity with – forms of violence, from international crimes to the conditions of possibility of armed conflict. She is particularly interested in the ways in which legal forms seek to contain or respond to mass atrocity through international criminal law and international humanitarian law. During the academic year of 2020-2021, Sara is on research leave supported by the Leverhulme Trust to work on her manuscript tentatively entitled ‘Humanitarian Complicity in the Global Legal Order.’ She is also collaborating on a three year research project funded by the National Sciences Foundation (NSF, US) on the use of geospatial technologies in human rights and international criminal law investigations.

Sara earned her interdisciplinary doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, where she specialised in international law and human rights, jurisprudence and social thought, and political theory. Her doctoral work considered issues of jurisdiction at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which was based upon a year of trial observation through Berkeley’s court monitoring project in Freetown. Prior to her appointment at Kent, she worked as a researcher in the Department of Public International Law at Leiden University, where she studied the effects of International Criminal Court interventions in Kenya and Uganda. She also taught postgraduate courses in international relations at the University of Amsterdam’s department of Political Science. In a past life she worked for an attorney specialising in police misconduct and prison litigation in Oakland, California.

Contact Information

Katharine Bell