American Anthropologist

Ad Hoc Humanity: UN Peacekeeping and the Limits of International Community in Gaza



ABSTRACT  In this article, I explore the work of the first UN peacekeeping force: the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) in Gaza (1956–67). UNEF's experience helped shape the basic principles of UN peacekeeping. First-generation peacekeeping was defined in significant part by its limits: need for consent, constraints of its mission, and attenuated knowledge of and involvement with the local population. Peacekeeping was intended to assert global ideals and expand the reach of the “international community.” The idea of international community is instantiated in global laws and institutions, but it also finds expression at the small scale when the “international” personnel come into contact with “locals.” The limits of peacekeeping missions in turn shaped the kinds of relationships that could develop on the ground. Anthropological attention to these complicated, sometimes messy encounters can help both policy makers and scholars understand the limits and possibilities of peacekeeping as a site of international community.