ABSTRACT

Introduction This chapter examines how imaginaries of ‘a global commons’ are constructed by the community of the United Nations (UN) on the basis of a witnessing of the violence of atrocity both as it exists today in various regions of the world and as it is remembered from the past. In particular, it will assess how the UN acts as an agent of pedagogic instruction in this regard, exploring the various ways in which particular memories of violence can be seen as ‘belonging’ to all members of a humanity still plagued by genocidal urges. While the UN’s more recent project of remembrance and learning from atrocity is directed in the first instance at co-members of a politically constituted international community, it nevertheless also proves instrumental in initiating a discourse on what makes this community something more than a legal-political entity, something akin to a global commons. The ‘unto-itselfness’ of human existence (Nancy, 1991: 5) may be driven by the impulse to survive, the desire for autonomy, as well as the realization of personal freedoms, but humankind has always also demonstrated a basic need to make sense of the relationality of our ‘being together’ (Nancy, 1996) as co-dwellers of one world and explore ideas we share ‘in common’ (Nancy, 1999: 10), including those as to the unrelenting capacity of people’s cruelty to each other. Rarely are memories of barbarism seen as belonging exclusively to particular national or ethnic communities but, rather, they come back to us all (Morin, 2006: 1) as a reminder that vigilance in the constant struggle against genocidal tendencies is the fundamental responsibility of all members of humanity.