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Brendan T. Lawson

Introduction Quantification is an essential component of contemporary humanitarianism. It has manifested most clearly in the proliferation of indexes, metrics, indicators and rankings across the humanitarian sector: CATO’s Human Freedom Index rates each country on a scale of 0–10 to judge the freedom they allow their citizens, the UN’s Integrated Phase Classification categorises countries’ food insecurity into five quantitatively-based tiers to

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Cathrine Brun
and
Cindy Horst

most local and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) continue ‘to operate as sub-contractors, with limited influence’ ( Obrecht et al. , 2022 : 226; see also Gòmez, 2021 ). The limited progress may be explained by the continued unwillingness of powerful humanitarian actors to formally include a more contextualised mode of humanitarian assistance, which is often understood to challenge humanitarianisms’ universality as reflected in the Humanitarian

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Governing Precarity through Adaptive Design
Mark Duffield

Introduction Drawing its energy from the wave of New Left and counter-cultural radicalism of the 1960s ( Boltanski and Chiapello, 2005 ), an NGO-led direct humanitarian action pushed onto the international stage during the 1970s. The radicalism of this new anti-establishment sans frontières humanitarianism lay in its political challenge to the conventions of Cold War sovereignty. By being there on the ground it sought to hold sovereign power to account, witnessing its excesses while professing a face-to-face humanitarian

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Olivia Umurerwa Rutazibwa

order. Eurocentrism has taught us to see the potential end of an era in every relative change in Western power. Thinking about the role of humanitarianism today requires that we don’t reproduce or unwittingly celebrate Western-led order by mourning the end of a history that never actually existed. Given past and present non-Western experiences of liberal order, we might ask: what’s there to mourn? My personal experiences of research and knowledge production regarding humanitarianism have reinforced in me an anti-colonial ethos – an intellectual

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Challenging scales and making relations

Accounts of development and humanitarianism, including its critiques, have long been preoccupied with its institutional forms, driven by governments and international organisations. Such emphasis often attributes significance to the large-scale. The book argues that engaging with the informal and local manifestations of aid disrupts this assumption. It draws on ethnographic research with practitioners in Cambodia, who run their privately funded aid projects. They include Cambodians and foreigners, from Asia and the Global North, who undertake these projects of their own initiative. The book demonstrates how they make their own scales, offering radically different understandings of what actions are significant, and who counts. Such a perspective queries core humanitarian beliefs, and theories of social change more generally. It suggests that everyday practitioners operate with multiple, interlinking scales of their own making. Rather than being dismissed as ‘small scale’, they demonstrate how they render people and causes meaningful, regardless of numbers or size. They question the role of distance for aid, and reveal a nuanced interplay of proximity and distance to those in need. Such unsettling of the valorisation of the large-scale extends to social relations. The ‘distant stranger’ as the archetypal object of humanitarianism is replaced by a desire to get to know others through the act of assistance, often through idioms of kinship. Critically nuancing the trope of the ‘white saviour’, everyday aid is characterised by multiple affinity ties between actors from the Global North and South, which direct and motivate development and humanitarian action.

Jenny Edkins

humanitarianism, humanity, human 73 4 Humanitarianism, 1 humanity, human A few people have a bed for the night For a night the wind is kept from them The snow meant for them falls on the roadway – Bertolt Brecht2 Brecht’s poem A Bed for the Night tells how a man stands on a street corner in New York soliciting beds for the homeless. Although this ‘won’t change the world’, it does mean ‘a few men have a bed for the night’. The reader is called upon not to ‘put the book down on reading this’, because there is more to be said. What remains to be said is the

in Change and the politics of certainty
Selective humanity in the Anglophone world

This book examines the shifting relationship between humanitarianism and the expansion, consolidation and postcolonial transformation of the Anglophone world across three centuries.

Rather than exploring this relationship within a generalised narrative, an introductory essay sets out its key features throughout the imperial and post-imperial period, before carefully selected chapters explore trade-offs between humane concern and the altered context of colonial and postcolonial realpolitik with case studies distributed between the late eighteenth and late twentieth centuries.

Together, the collection enables us to tease out the relationship between British humanitarian concerns and the uneven imagination and application of emancipation; the shifting tensions between ameliorative humanitarianism and assertive human rights; the specificities of humanitarian governance; the shifting locales of humanitarian donors, practitioners and recipients as decolonisation reconfigured imperial relationships; and the overarching question of who Anglo humanitarianism is for.

Silvia Salvatici

army on 24 June 1859. It had been a particularly bloody battle, in which around 40,000 men were killed or seriously wounded; many of the latter died because of a lack of treatment. The evocative power of the blood spilled near the little northern Italian town is commonly associated with the birth of the Red Cross, and Solferino has become the symbolic place of the origins of international humanitarianism. It was here – after witnessing the harrowing spectacle of the wounded abandoned on the field – that Henry Dunant, from Geneva, had the idea of an organisation for

in A history of humanitarianism, 1755–1989
Aboriginal slavery and white Australia
Amanda Nettelbeck

intervene in race exploitation. It did so just at the moment when an idea of white Australian sovereignty was being shored up in other areas of law and policy. 3 A growing body of scholarship has revisited humanitarianism’s historical entanglements with nation-building projects to unpack how humanitarians’ long-term objectives, so often grounded in values of universal humanity, allowed new sovereign powers to

in Humanitarianism, empire and transnationalism, 1760–1995