Seminar: Histories of the Present. The formation of contemporary world with Boyd van Dijk (University of Oxford) and Fabian Klose (University of Cologne)

Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo Discussion

Seminar: History(ies) of the Present. The formation of the contemporary world

Organization: Hugo Dores (University of Coimbra), Ana Guardião (University of Florence), Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo (University of Coimbra), José Pedro Monteiro (University of Minho)

When: 20 April 2023

Where: University of Coimbra

Time: 4:00 pm (GMT)

On site and online*


We invite you to attend a seminar discussion by Boyd van Dijk and Fabian Klose on the theme "History(ies) of the Present. The formation of the contemporary world". The abstract of the two presentations are included below: 


1. Boyd van Dijk (University of Oxford), The Geneva Conventions, Race, and National Liberation Movements in Apartheid South Africa, 1960-69


This paper, based on a wide collection of archival materials from South Africa, Namibia, and several different archives in Europe and North America, focuses on the history of the Geneva Conventions and national liberation movements through the lens of the early prison visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Apartheid South Africa. Building on recent and innovative scholarship, it argues that in allowing the ICRC to operate, the South African government never meant to end or ease its policies of racial oppression. The goal was rather to shield its white power from outside criticism by enabling a miniscule group of ICRC inspectors to visit Apartheid prisons under highly controlled conditions, thereby amplifying the regime’s weakened international reputation following the Sharpeville Massacre. These controversies over whether international legal protection was to be accorded or denied to anti-Apartheid guerrillas and political activists would form the backdrop against which Afro-Asian advocates began calling for radically altering the existing marginalized legal status for irregulars from the late 1960s onwards. Claiming the right to self-determination in armed conflict, these activists pushed the United Nations to focus more on the humanization of warfare by weaving freedom fighters into the 1949 POW Convention’s genetic code. In so doing, they appropriated the ICRC’s legal codebook to challenge its own racial biases against anti-Apartheid combatants. Having previously helped perpetuate white minority rule in South Africa, humanitarian law would now act as a means to contest it, with several important unintended consequences for its later development in the 1970s.

2. Fabian Klose (University of Cologne), Visions for a New World Order – International Politics and Military Interventionism in the 1990s


The 1990s marks, after the end of the Cold War, the beginning of a quest for a new world order. During this decade, especially in the realm of United Nations, new visions of global governance emerged, which were based on a redefinition of fundamental principles such as peace, security, sovereignty as well as the responsibility to protect fundamental norms. In this context military interventionism re-emerged as a significant tool in international politics and even became a characteristic sign of this decade. However, far from being linear and triumphalist, these developments were overshadowed by massive failures of the international community to prevent mass violence, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. To investigate these visions for a new world order, the practices and failures to implement them offers a way to historicise international politics in the 1990s and to analyse the decade’s lasting impact to our world today.

* This seminar will take place in an online format. For registration send email to:

This initiative is sponsored by the project Humanity Internationalized: Cases, Dynamics, and Comparisons (PTDC/HAR-HIS/6257/2020).