At its business meeting on 1 December 2011 during the Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, the Syrian Studies Association awarded its bi-annual prize for best article or chapter to Keith Watenpaugh for “The League of Nations' Rescue of Armenian Genocide Survivors and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism, 1920–1927” (The American Historical Review, Vol. 115, No. 5 (December 2010), 1315-1339).
Watenpaugh’s article is a study of the emergence of modern humanitarianism in the wake of World War I based on the fate of survivors of the Armenian Genocide, including those housed at a refugee center in Aleppo. Watenpaugh examines a wide variety of sources including intake surveys from the Rescue Home in Aleppo; League of Nations documents; recollections from locals including Aleppan jurist and historian Kamil al-Ghazzi; and posters from the American Committee for Relief in the Near East. Watenpaugh offers an original “archeology” of modern humanitarianism including its internal contradictions and the tendency of both its exponents and its critics to abstract the women and child survivors into “empty vessels into which the anxieties and beliefs about change, national honor, and civilization could be poured.”