Review: Keith Watenpaugh, Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism

Document Type

Book Review


Keith Watenpaugh’s new book, Bread from Stones, considers humanitarianism in its activist form as a set of individual and official policy responses to human suffering that emerged out of the experience of World War I. By focusing on the nature of the response to humanitarian crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Armenian experience in the postwar moment, Watenpaugh suggests that scholars more closely consider the role of humanitarianism in “contemporary human rights thinking” (p. 3). This approach marks an important development in the scholarship on global humanitarianism. Placing humanitarianism and human rights in the same field of study reorients the scholarly gaze away from debating the origins of the human rights story toward more closely considering the historical relationship between the rise of an ideology of universal rights and the practice of humanitarian intervention.