Synopses & Reviews
From Syrian civilians locked in iron cages to veterans joining peaceful indigenous water protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation; from Sri Lanka to Iraq and from Yemen to the US, accusations of the use of human shields as a means of protection, coercion or deterrence have multiplied globally over the last decade. Human shields have also appeared with increasing frequency in non-combat contexts such as anti-nuclear struggles, civil and environmental protests, and, most recently, in computer games. The phenomenon is, however, by no means a new one.
With Human Shields, Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini provide a genealogy of the term and recount its appearance in key historical moments and contemporary sites. The practice of human shielding corresponds with the history of shifting understandings of what counts as "human," such that in the American Civil War or the Franco-German War, only the elite were used as shields; while later, hundreds of thousands of women and children and indigenous people of color were placed in this particularly literal crossfire.
Human Shields demonstrates how this increasing weaponization of human vulnerability has made the position of civilians trapped in theatres of violence more precarious and their lives more expendable.