When is a war not a war? When it is undertaken in the name of democracy, against the forces of racism, sexism, and religious and political persecution? This is the new world of warfare that Neda Atanasoski observes in Humanitarian Violence, different in name from the old imperialism but not so different in kind. In particular, she considers U.S. militarism—humanitarian militarism—during the Vietnam War, the Soviet-Afghan War, and the 1990s wars of secession in the former Yugoslavia.
What this book brings to light—through novels, travel narratives, photojournalism, films, news media, and political rhetoric—is in fact a system of postsocialist imperialism based on humanitarian ethics. In the fiction of the United States as a multicultural haven, which morally underwrites the nation’s equally brutal waging of war and making of peace, parts of the world are subject to the violence of U.S. power because they are portrayed to be homogeneous and racially, religiously, and sexually intolerant—and thus permanently in need of reform. The entangled notions of humanity and atrocity that follow from such mediations of war and crisis have refigured conceptions of racial and religious freedom in the post–Cold War era. The resulting cultural narratives, Atanasoski suggests, tend to racialize ideological differences—whereas previous forms of imperialism racialized bodies. In place of the European racial imperialism, U.S. settler colonialism, and pre–civil rights racial constructions that associated racial difference with a devaluing of nonwhite bodies, Humanitarian Violence identifies an emerging discourse of race that focuses on ideological and cultural differences and makes postsocialist and Islamic nations the potential targets of U.S. disciplining violence.
In Surrogate Humanity Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora trace the ways in which robots, artificial intelligence, and other technologies serve as surrogates for human workers within a labor system entrenched in racial capitalism and patriarchy. Analyzing myriad technologies, from sex robots and military drones to sharing-economy platforms, Atanasoski and Vora show how liberal structures of antiblackness, settler colonialism, and patriarchy are fundamental to human---machine interactions, as well as the very definition of the human. While these new technologies and engineering projects promise a revolutionary new future, they replicate and reinforce racialized and gendered ideas about devalued work, exploitation, dispossession, and capitalist accumulation. Yet, even as engineers design robots to be more perfect versions of the human—more rational killers, more efficient workers, and tireless companions—the potential exists to develop alternative modes of engineering and technological development in ways that refuse the racial and colonial logics that maintain social hierarchies and inequality.