Humanitarianism, humanity, human

in Change and the politics of certainty

The chapter examines the desire to help those we see as victims of crisis or disaster, in particular through what we call humanitarian intervention. It looks at how such actions can perpetuate the very divisions that produce the problem in the first place. Through their reliance on a distinction between the human and the non-human, those politically qualified and those not, humanitarianism shares a secret solidarity with the exclusionary practices of the state and the coloniser. The chapter examines David Reiff’s book A Bed for the Night and considers the dangers of ethics and criteria for a ‘good’ or humanitarian war. There is a tension, the chapter argues, between small actions, face to face, and the desire to do more: to change the world.

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