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Introduction

Scripts for a New Stage: United Nations’ Observances and New Perspectives on Diplomatic History

Paul van Trigt

This introduction to a special issue about the United Nations’ observances (days, weeks, years, decades) explores how scholarly engagement with UN observances may provide fresh perspectives on diplomatic history. The introduction discusses the origins of these observances and the limited historiographical attention they have received. It argues that observances need to be conceptualized and historicized as “diplomatic scripts.” This approach helps to understand how the UN has functioned as a diplomatic platform and how the UN, especially since the 1970s, has been used by a broad range of diplomats in different locations and with different agendas. It highlights the diversity of diplomatic activity beyond the state-to-state model and uncovers actors and processes that have stood in the shadow of well-known diplomatic events and developments. The last part of the introduction provides a short overview of this special issue.

Lukas Schemper

The article discusses the creation of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (idndr, 1990–1999), a global observance event that emanated neither from within the United Nations – for whom until then disaster management or rights of disaster victims had not been a real priority – nor from within civil society organizations or governments. In actuality, it was primarily a scientist-led initiative. This article suggests that this episode is a rare example of a joint effort on the part of a scientific community to create international scientific institutions to deal with the issue of disaster risk. The framing of the issue as “scientific” by earth scientists led the UN Secretariat and governments to embrace an issue that they had hitherto neglected. However, archival evidence also suggests that the eventual takeover of the project by the UN bureaucracy weakened the role of earth scientists in the idndr and changed its orientation.

Veronika Flegar

This article analyzes unhcr’s understanding of disabled refugees during the 1959–1960 World Refugee Year (wry) and the 1981 International Year of Disabled Persons (iydp) and, specifically, how this understanding is intertwined with the international-protection activities that were undertaken on their behalf during both years. This analysis is based on archival material on the two years from the unhcr archives in Geneva. The article finds that unhcr’s engagement with disabled refugees during the two UN observances is characterized by the economic rationale of self-sufficiency and the humanitarian rationale of vulnerability – depending on what was perceived as the best-selling frame in light of the political climate at the time. Both cases therefore highlight the political nature of classifications and frames for the international protection of disabled refugees and expose how the international protection of disabled refugees is not static but, instead, remains repeatedly reconstructed.

Iris D. Hartog, Michael Scherer-Rath, Tom H. Oreel, Justine E. Netjes, José P.S. Henriques, Jorrit Lemkes, Alexander Vonk, Mirjam A.G. Sprangers, Pythia T. Nieuwkerk and Hanneke W.M. van Laarhoven

Abstract

The theoretical model: ‘Narrative meaning making and integration of life events’ hypothesizes that life events such as falling ill may result in an ‘experience of contingency’. Through narrative meaning making, this experience may be eventually integrated into patients’ life stories, which, in turn, may enhance their quality of life. To contribute to our understanding of this existential dimension of falling ill and to further validate the theoretical model, we examined the relationships among the concepts assessed with the RE-LIFE questionnaire.

Two hypothesized mediation models were assessed using regression-based serial multiple mediation analysis. Model 1, assessing the influence of ‘experience of contingency’ on ‘acknowledging’, was significant and showed partial mediation by indirect influences through ‘negative impact on life goals’ and ‘existential meaning’. Model 2, assessing the influence of ‘experience of contingency’ on ‘quality of life’, was also significant, with a full mediation by the variables ‘negative impact on life goals’, ‘existential meaning’ and ‘acknowledging’. In conclusion, several hypothesized relationships within the theoretical model were confirmed. Narrative meaning making and integration significantly influence people’s self-evaluation of their quality of life.

Walking on the Pages of the Word of God

Self, Land, and Text Among Evangelical Volunteers in Jerusalem

Series:

Aron Engberg

In Walking on the Pages of the Word of God Aron Engberg explores the religious language and identities of evangelical volunteer workers in contemporary Jerusalem. The volunteers are connected to Christian organizations which consider their work a natural consequence of the biblical promises to Israel and their responsibility to “bless the Jewish people”.

Relying on ethnographic data of the discursive practices of the volunteers, the book explores a central puzzle of Zionist Christianity: the narrative production of Israel’s religious significance and its relationship to broader Christian language traditions. By focusing on the volunteers’ stories about themselves, the land and the Bible, Aron Engberg offers a convincing account about how the State of Israel is finding its way into evangelical identities.