Holocaust ashes in and beyond memorial sites and museums
This article focuses on ongoing contestations around burned human remains
originating from the Holocaust, their changing meanings and dynamics, and their
presence/absence in Holocaust-related debates, museums and memorial sites. It
argues that ashes challenge but also expand the notion of what constitutes human
remains, rendering them irreducible to merely bones and fleshed bodies, and
proposes that incinerated remains need to be seen not as a ‘second
rate’ corporeality of the dead but as a different one, equally important
to engage with – analytically, ethically and politically. Challenging the
perception of ashes as unable to carry traces of the personhood of the of the
dead, and as not capable of yielding evidence, I posit that, regardless of their
fragile corporality, incinerated human remains should be considered abjectual
and evidential, as testifying to the violence from which they originated and to
which they were subjected. Moreover, in this article I consider incinerated
human remains through the prism of the notion of vulnerability, meant to convey
their susceptibility to violence – violence through misuse, destruction,
objectification, instrumentalisation and/or museum display. I argue that the
consequences of the constantly negotiated status of ashes as a ‘second
rate’ corporeality of human remains include their very presence in museum
exhibitions – where they, as human remains, do not necessarily
Telling stories of violence, suffering and death in museum
This article describes some of the techniques museums use to represent the
suffering body in exhibitions. Some display human remains, but much more common,
especially in Western museums, are stand-ins for the body. Manikins take many
forms, including the wax museum’s hyperrealistic representations, the
history museum’s neutral grey figures and the expressionistic figures
that represent enslaved people in many recent exhibits. Symbolic objects or
artefacts from the lives of victims can serve as counterweights to telling the
story of their deaths. Photographs can show horror and the machinery of death,
focus attention on individual lives or recreate communities. The absence of the
body can call attention to its suffering. All of these techniques can be useful
for museums trying to display and teach traumatic histories, but must be used
with care and caution.
Internal forced displacement is a current social problem in Colombia. Although this phenomenon has been studied extensively, the purpose of this article is to analyse the administration of this crisis under the grille interprétative of humanitarian government during the presidential term of Juan Manuel Santos (2010–18). My argument is that humanitarian government functions as a biopolitical assembly that amalgamates two elements: resilience – a fundamental element of psychosocial attention to the displaced – and the language of compassion used publicly by President Santos. Finally, I will try to underline that this logic operates as a condition of possibility to normalise this phenomenon and hide the functioning of the violence that unequally distributes the compassion between lives considered valuable and those whose lives and problems simply appear to be not valuable at all.
Expanding Gender Norms to Marriage Drivers Facing Boys and Men in South Sudan
In South Sudan, child marriage is often positioned as a cultural practice tied to conflict and displacement as well as gender norms affirming that girls should marry. Based on findings of a multi-sectoral gender assessment conducted by Save the Children in Rumbek, Torit, Malualkon, Bor and Kapoeta, our paper draws attention to multiple, connected drivers of child marriage. Drawing specifically on findings related to child marriage, we suggest the need to understand child marriage in the context of cycles of poverty and inter-clan fighting. In many communities, cattle form the basis for the ‘bride price’, driving cattle raiding, due to pressure on males to marry. The ability to pay the bride price may be an indicator of manhood in some pastoralist communities of South Sudan. We suggest that while humanitarian interventions tend to fixate on empowering girls or addressing gender norms girls face, less attention is placed on the ‘demand side’ of child marriage – on the gender norms pushing boys and men to marry girls. Our paper emphasises the importance of tackling norms from both the perspective of girls as well as boys and men within a broader context of improving livelihoods in South Sudan.
Within bilateral and multilateral funding circles, there has been a strong and growing emphasis on the importance of understanding and responding to gender inequalities in humanitarian settings. However, given the often-short funding cycles, among other operational challenges, there is limited scope to incorporate interventions that address the root causes and social norms underpinning gender inequalities, or other gender transformative interventions. In the context of the decade-long crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, fuelled by incursions from non-state armed groups (NSAGs), including Boko Haram, and the resultant protracted and chronic humanitarian crisis, this article examines Save the Children’s child nutrition programmes in northeast Nigeria. Taking an ethnographic approach focused on volunteer-driven peer support groups (mother-to-mother and father-to-father) that aim to increase knowledge on best practices for infant and child nutrition, we investigate whether these activities are transforming societal gender norms. While evidence shows an improved understanding and awareness of gender-positive roles by both men and women, restrictive gender norms remain prevalent, including among lead volunteers. We suggest the possibility of longer term shifts in power dynamics in the home and society at large as well as suggest how humanitarian response can better integrate gender transformative programming.
In the absence of a normative framework, the concept of humanitarian corridors lacks a consistent definition and is highly vulnerable to political interpretation. The notion underwent multiple semantic shifts, from referring to a right of passage in situations of armed conflict, to an appeal to facilitated access in the face of bordure closures or bureaucratic constraints. The diverse range of situations in reference to which the terms ‘humanitarian corridor’, ‘relief corridor’ or ‘access corridor’ are used, often interchangeably, is matched only by the diverse range of actors that use them. Calls for their opening have become so common that corridors seem increasingly considered a relevant modality of humanitarian action despite much ambiguity around what they are expected to achieve, how much protection they offer, and how they are likely to affect the overall dynamic of conflicts. Meant to allow the unobstructed deployment of humanitarian aid and/or the evacuation of civilians, humanitarian corridors are by definition temporary and limited in geographical scope. As such, they are a timid assertion of the principle of free access to victims, prone to manipulation by belligerents or third parties to serve war strategies or to project an image of civility. Looking at the wide array of its application in history, the author puts the use of the concept into perspective, drawing on a variety of examples to illustrate how both the idea and its implementation have been problematic. A few operational recommendations are then derived from this analysis for humanitarian practitioners to consider and adapt in light of their particular context.
Writing about Personal Experiences of Humanitarianism
This interview hopes to build on and contribute to research on humanitarian memoirs by talking to two humanitarians who have written memoirs: Professor Tony Redmond OBE and Gareth Owen OBE. Tony Redmond’s book Frontline: Saving Lives in War, Disaster and Disease was published in 2021 by HarperNorth and Gareth Owen’s book When the Music’s Over: Intervention, Aid and Somalia will be published in June 2022 by Repeater Books. The interview was conducted by Róisín Read.
Local Understandings of Resilience after Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban City, Philippines
Ara Joy Pacoma
In the context of disasters, the term ‘resilience’ is viewed by some humanitarians as overused, underdefined and difficult to operationalise. Moreover, much of this process has been expert- and humanitarian-led, leaving out the understanding of resilience at the local level, among disaster-affected people and in local languages. And when local input from disaster-affected households is included, their understanding of resilience is often filtered through expert and professional opinions. Looking at the case study of resilience-oriented interventions in Tacloban City, Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan, this study examines local conceptions of resilience by disaster-affected households. Designed and led by local researchers who were also Haiyan survivors, we conducted in-depth interviews with 31 Haiyan survivors in a typhoon-affected community. Results reveal that disaster-affected people have drastically different conceptions of resilience than those promoted by institutions, such as family’s well-being, intactness of the family members after the disaster, durability and having faith in God. Food, financial capacity and psychosocial status significantly influence people’s contextualised meanings of resilience. Access to social and material resources from a household’s social capital networks was also found to be an important factor to understanding resilience.