International Organizations in the Global South: Body Politics, Power Relations, Local Impacts
The conference will discuss the role of international organizations in shaping body
politics in countries of the Global South during the twentieth century.
International organizations often took upon themselves responsibilities
regarding the bodies of populations across the globe. Defending bodies from sickness, substance abuse, hunger, trafficking, and harmful labor was an official goal of organizations such as the League of Nations, the World Health Organization, the
International Labor Organization, International Atomic Energy Association. etc.. Other international organizations such as missions, global businesses, humanitarian and aid organizations have equally dealt with body politics in their respective frameworks.
The conference invites historians to discuss the agendas of international
organizations from a critical perspective, questioning their neutral stances in the
understanding and definition of the physical needs of societies in the Global South.
(With Global South, we refer to regions outside of Europe and North-America, which
are newly industrialized, in the process of industrialization and are frequently current
or former subjects of colonialism.)
Historians have often referred to racial and gendered biases in the agendas of
international organizations towards non-European societies. Yet, the impact of their
understanding of the bodies of the people they encountered is not yet sufficiently
explored. The focus on bodies and body politics is usually considered in gender and
sexuality studied, but less so in studies of international organizations. Examining the
actions of international organizations can offer new insights on how colonial bodies
were constructed by such organizations, how local actors reacted to such
interferences, to what extent these constructions had an impact on social and political structures, and in which ways these constructions are perpetuated in the present.
Based at the Geneva Graduate Institute, the conference will also include
meetings and guided tours in the archives of organizations such as the League of
Nations, WHO, ILO, International Committee of the Red Cross, the Olympic Committee etc. With the help of archivists, we will try and find traces of the body and of international perceptions of it in the archives.