ArticlePDF Available

Abstract

Full article available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07075332.2020.1810100 The League of Red Cross Societies (LRCS) – known as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) since 1991 – has received little historical attention despite representing the world’s largest volunteer network and being an integral part of the Red Cross Movement. Formed in the aftermath of the First World War by the national Red Cross Societies of the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan, the LRCS aspired to lead in the promotion of global public health and welfare during peacetime. Through the lens of assemblage thinking and the five assemblage elements of exteriority, capacity to evolve, internal machinery, open systems, and desire, the paper seeks to understand the longevity and resilient humanitarianism of the LRCS. In doing so, the paper provides a new conceptualisation of the LRCS that helps to explain how it survived in the rapidly changing and increasingly contested international humanitarian environment of the twentieth century.
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
https://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=rinh20
The International History Review
ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rinh20
Resilient Humanitarianism? Using Assemblage to
re-evaluate the history of the League of Red Cross
Societies
Melanie Oppenheimer , Susanne Schech , Romain Fathi , Neville Wylie &
Rosemary Cresswell
To cite this article: Melanie Oppenheimer , Susanne Schech , Romain Fathi , Neville Wylie
& Rosemary Cresswell (2020): Resilient Humanitarianism? Using Assemblage to re-evaluate
the history of the League of Red Cross Societies, The International History Review, DOI:
10.1080/07075332.2020.1810100
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/07075332.2020.1810100
© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa
UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis
Group
Published online: 27 Aug 2020.
Submit your article to this journal
Article views: 18
View related articles
View Crossmark data
Resilient Humanitarianism? Using Assemblage to re-evaluate
the history of the League of Red Cross Societies
Melanie Oppenheimer
a
, Susanne Schech
a
, Romain Fathi
b
, Neville Wylie
c
and Rosemary Cresswell
d
a
College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia;
b
College of
Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia and Centre dHistoire de
Sciences Po, Paris, France;
c
Division of History, Heritage and Politics, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland;
d
Department of History, University of Hull, Hull, UK
ABSTRACT
The League of Red Cross Societies (LRCS) known as the International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) since 1991
has received little historical attention despite representing the worlds
largest volunteer network and being an integral part of the Red Cross
Movement. Formed in the aftermath of the First World War by the
national Red Cross Societies of the United States, Great Britain, France,
Italy and Japan, the LRCS aspired to lead in the promotion of global
public health and welfare during peacetime. Through the lens of assem-
blage thinking and the five assemblage elements of exteriority, capacity
to evolve, internal machinery, open systems, and desire, the paper seeks
to understand the longevity and resilient humanitarianism of the LRCS.
In doing so, the paper provides a new conceptualisation of the LRCS
that helps to explain how it survived in the rapidly changing and
increasingly contested international humanitarian environment of the
twentieth century.
KEYWORDS
League of Red Cross
Societies; International
Federation of Red Cross
Red Crescent; Red Cross
Movement; resilient
humanitarianism; twentieth
century international-
ism; assemblage
Introduction
In recent years, a growing body of historical and International Relations studies have focused on
transnational humanitarian organisations to explore their origins and contributions to changing
ideas and actions around the principles and practices of humanitarianism. The League of Red
Cross Societies (LRCS) known as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies (IFRC) since 1991 has received relatively little attention. It incorporates the 192
national Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies, and is an integral part of the Red Cross
Movement, established by the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in
1863, now the oldest surviving humanitarian organisation.
1
The LRCS was established in Paris on
5 May 1919 by the national Red Cross societies of the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy
and Japan.
2
The LRCSs arrival challenged the ICRC to its core.
3
While the ICRC until that time
had only functioned during and in response to war, the LRCS set itself the task to mobilise
established and emerging Red Cross national societies for peacetime work in areas of public
CONTACT Melanie Oppenheimer melanie.oppenheimer@flinders.edu.au
ß2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided
the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
THE INTERNATIONAL HISTORY REVIEW
https://doi.org/10.1080/07075332.2020.1810100
Article
Full-text available
Recent historiography pertaining to the International Red Cross has generally emphasised the transnational scale as best suited for analysing this global movement. Using the French Red Cross as a case study, this article suggests that focusing on the national scale, or even on the national-imperial scale, does not exclude transnational approaches but enriches them. In doing so, it highlights the dialectic between scales of humanitarian activity and complicates our understanding of the Red Cross movement in the early twentieth century. The article examines how the French Red Cross strived for its independence within the broader Red Cross world in a postwar humanitarian context increasingly dominated by transnational organisations. It also argues that in the 1920s the French Red Cross, a traditional auxiliary of the French army, became an arm of the French Foreign Office, advancing French diplomacy and sovereignty.
Article
As the youth wing of the Canadian Red Cross Society, the Junior Red Cross (JRC) program of the 1920s and 1930s aimed to teach school-aged children and youth habits of good health, good citizenship, and service to others. Inspired by a transnational ethic of humanitarianism, the program tried to build international ties of friendship between JRC members in Canada and those elsewhere, while shaping Canadian Juniors in a particular mould of national citizenship. Through an examination of adult and child contributions to the national JRC magazine, and the portfolios Juniors created to send overseas, this article explores the tensions inherent in the national and transnational lessons conveyed by adult JRC leaders as well as the ways young Canadians embraced, modified, or rejected those perspectives.
Article
In disaster science, policy and practice, the transition of resilience from a descriptive concept to a normative agenda provides challenges and opportunities. This paper argues that both are needed to increase resilience. We briefly outline the concept and several recent international resilience-building efforts to elucidate critical questions and less-discussed issues. We highlight the need to move resilience thinking forward by emphasizing structural social-political processes, acknowledging and acting on differences between ecosystems and societies, and looking beyond the quantitative streamlining of resilience into one index. Instead of imposing a technical-reductionist framework, we suggest a starting basis of integrating different knowledge types and experiences to generate scientifically reliable, context-appropriate and socially robust resilience-building activities.
Article
This article analyses the development of organised relief for global natural disasters in the years after the First World War, c. 1919 – 1932. It does so by telling two concurrent humanitarian narratives, one focused on a transnational institution, the other on the international affairs of a single nation-state. First, it examines the emergence of the United States as a key figure in global disaster relief at this time. Here, it pays close attention to the transnational connections that American citizens, voluntary associations, and government agencies forged with people in other nations through disaster aid. The article then traces the origins and rise of the League of Red Cross Societies as a leading institution of voluntary transnational disaster assistance during the 1920s and early 1930s, thus recovering the untold history of the organisation’s earliest disaster relief operations. Analysing these narratives in tandem and considering the links between them, I argue, offers important new perspectives on the history of transnational disaster relief at a key stage in its historical development, the interwar years.
Chapter
This chapter shows the potential of new literary techniques in cultural history for enriching more traditional social history topics. It also argues that humanitarianism depended in part on the development of a constellation of narrative forms—the realistic novel, the enquiry, and the medical case history—which created a sense of veracity and sympathy through narrative detail. It then asks how details about the suffering bodies of others engender compassion and how that compassion comes to be understood as a moral imperative to undertake ameliorative action. Case histories and autopsies constitute humanitarian narratives. The systematic investigation of a particular patient's demise is paradigmatic of the sorts of narrative structures that make “humanitarianism” possible, even though these narratives are written in the icy language of science. Humanitarian narrative created dialectically its antithesis.
Article
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) enjoys a specific legal status and specific privileges and immunities under both international and domestic law. They enable the ICRC to effectively carry out its mandate, and to do so in full conformity with its Fundamental Principles and standard working modalities. This article clarifies the ICRC's particular legal status and explains the rationale, scope and legal sources of its privileges and immunities.
Article
The aftermath of the Great War brought the most troubled peacetime the world had ever seen. Survivors of the war were not only the soldiers who fought, the wounded in mind and body. They were also the stateless, the children who suffered war's consequences, and later the victims of the great Russian famine of 1921 to 1923. Before the phrases ‘universal human rights’ and ‘non-governmental organization’ even existed, five remarkable men and women - René Cassin and Albert Thomas from France, Fridtjof Nansen from Norway, Herbert Hoover from the US and Eglantyne Jebb from Britain - understood that a new type of transnational organization was needed to face problems that respected no national boundaries or rivalries. Bruno Cabanes, a pioneer in the study of the aftermath of war, shows, through his vivid and revelatory history of individuals, organizations, and nations in crisis, how and when the right to human dignity first became inalienable.