Violent Exceptions turns to the humanitarian figure of the child-in-peril in twenty-first-century political discourse to better understand how this figure is appropriated by political constituencies for purposes rarely to do with the needs of children at risk. Wendy S. Hesford shows how the figure of the child-in-peril is predicated on racial division, which, she argues, is central to both conservative and liberal logics, especially at times of crisis when politicians leverage humanitarian storytelling as a political weapon. Through iconic images and stories of child migrants, child refugees, undocumented children, child soldiers, and children who are victims of war, terrorism, and state violence, Violent Exceptions illustrates how humanitarian rhetoric turns public attention away from systemic violations against children’s human rights and reframes this violence as exceptional—erasing more gradual forms of violence and minimizing human rights potential to counteract these violations and the precarious conditions from which they arise.
About the Author
Wendy S. Hesford is Professor of English and Faculty Director of the Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme at The Ohio State University. She is the author, most recently, of Spectacular Rhetorics: Human Rights Visions, Recognitions, Feminisms.
“This book is compelling and comprehensive—rigorous and also politically powerful. It offers new insights into humanitarianism and critical human rights literatures and will be of interest to scholars in this area as well as media and cultural studies, communication and rhetoric, and women, gender, and sexuality studies.” —Julietta Hua, author of Trafficking Women’s Human Rights
“Violent Exceptions offers a theoretically sophisticated approach to a heavily deployed, and tragically misunderstood, figure: the innocent child subjected to violence. At a historical moment in which the US is publicly—and tragically—reorienting its own approach to the allegedly universal appeal of childhood innocence, this book is especially timely and desperately needed.” —Anna Mae Duane, author of Suffering Childhood in Early America: Violence, Race, and the Making of the Child Victim