The History and Politics of Human Shields


ACLS Fellowship Program


Politics and Government


This project examines the history and politics of human shielding, which refers to the transformation of civilians into a technology of warfare through their deployment to deter attacks on military sites. Human shielding is a growing phenomenon related to the increasing “weaponization” of human bodies and the fact that urban settings have become common sites for conflicts. The project has two major objectives: 1) to offer a historical-legal investigation of human shielding; and 2) to identify and theorize the various forms of human shielding currently being used in contemporary theaters of violence. Taken together, this project will expose the military and ethical functions of the legal category of human shield, improve our understanding of the diverse contexts in which human shields appear today, and demonstrate how the conception of human shields shapes our perceptions of violence.