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Manu Bhagavan – Toward universal relief and rehabilitation: India, UNRRA, and the new internationalism
February 18, 2015 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm | Humanities 1, Room 520Free
Please join the History Department for this scholarly talk by Manu Bhagavan of Hunter College:
Toward universal relief and rehabilitation: India, UNRRA, and the new
“India” had been involved in the United Nations even in its wartime incarnation, inasmuch as the Crown Government of the colonized region brought the territory into the Second World War and, in turn, voted to support various institutions created to deal with the challenges wrought by the conflict. Among the most prominent of these was the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (UNRRA), the mission of which was to aid countries negatively impacted by the military campaigns. The British Government of India strongly signaled its support even as the subcontinent weathered the effects of one the worst famines ever encountered in the region. UNRRA was based in the United States and led by several men who considered themselves friends of India, most notably famed New Yorkers Herbert Lehman and Fiorello LaGuardia. Over the next several years, UNRRA pushed to create an Indian office and to incorporate Indians into administration based in the US, in a good faith effort to circumvent charges of imperial complicity. So the agency leadership was especially surprised when they ran into resistance from India’s anti-colonial icons. UNRRA was too blind to the pernicious stranglehold of imperialism the Indians believed, and so had to be challenged, even as it was admired. The encounter thus exemplifies colonial India’s efforts to challenge and undo Great Power/Global North/Western control of UN bureaucracies from the outset, and to reset both the tone and the substance of international relations by insisting on shared responsibilities and mutual respect.
Manu Bhagavan is the Chair of the Human Rights Program at the Roosevelt House Public Policy institute and a Professor of History at Hunter College and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. He is a specialist on modern India, focusing on the twentieth-century late-colonial and post-colonial periods, with particular interests in human rights, (inter)nationalism, and questions of sovereignty. His most recent publication is The Peacemakers: India and the Quest for One World (Haper Collins, 2012).