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ANTHRO 337: The Politics of Humanitarianism

What does it mean to want to help, to organize humanitarian aid, in times of crisis? At first glance, the impulse to help issui generis a good one. Helping is surely preferable to indifference and inaction. This does not mean that humanitarian interventions entail no ethical or political stakes or that they are beyond engaged critique. We need to critique precisely that which we value, and to ask some hard questions, among them these: What are the differences among humanitarianism, charity, and philanthropy? What of social obligations and solidarities? How does the neoliberal world order currently create structural inequalities that ensure the reproduction of poverty and violence? How does the current order of things resemble or differ from the colonial world order? This course examines the history of humanitarian sensibilities and the emergence of organized action in the cause of humanity. In the early years of humanitarian intervention, political neutrality was a key principle; it has now come under ever greater analytical and political scrutiny. We will examine the reasons for the politicization and militarization of aid -- be it humanitarian aid in natural disasters or political crises; development programs in the impoverished south (¿the Third World¿), or peace-keeping. We will end with a critical exploration of the concept of human rights, humanity, and personhood. The overall methodological aim of the course is to demonstrate what insights an ethnographic approach to the politics, ethics, and aesthetics of humanitarianism can offer. Prerequisite, by instructor consent.
Terms: Win | Units: 5 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)
Instructors: Malkki, L. (PI)
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