Open Access (free)
Jenny Edkins

The chapter examines the argument that we need to traverse the fantasy that we are outside the world and can control and change it, and give up on the search for certainty and security. The chapter proposes that traversing the fantasy of separation and control, and giving up on the security and comfort of imaginary wholeness, is not impossible, as many argue; rather, certainty and security always prove illusory. The chapter notes the thread connecting the author’s earlier work and introduces the way the book will explore these issues through autobiographical narrative accounts, studies of drama and film, and critical analyses of practical political action. It ends by pointing out how abandoning the search for certainty leads to a different pedagogy.

in Change and the politics of certainty
Open Access (free)
Jenny Edkins

This chapter takes the form of a narrative, auto-ethnographic or autobiographical account. In the period between 2002 and 2009, the author had made several visits to New York, and to Manhattan in particular, to the site of Ground Zero, in an attempt to understand the response of New Yorkers to the collapse of the twin towers. She was grappling with the idea of trauma time – the time of openness after an event that throws into doubt what seemed to have been certain – and its political implications. The visit recounted in this chapter took place after a gap of five years, and proved to be a turning point for the author, challenging what she had thought her work was about.

in Change and the politics of certainty
Open Access (free)
Jenny Edkins

The chapter reflects on the work of memory scholars. Inspired by a reading of Chris Marker’s film La Jétee, it explores concepts of time. La Jétee offers contrasting fantasies of the future, whilst also offering glimpses of a time that builds itself around us. The chapter shows that, despite the way Marker’s film complicates notions of a linear temporality and a better future, those notions return to haunt much scholarship on memory. I draw on Eric Santner’s notion of an escape – not from the everyday, but into the everyday – and ask whether such an escape is countenanced in the academic world.

in Change and the politics of certainty
Open Access (free)
Jenny Edkins

This chapter is inspired by Frantz Fanon’s autobiographical account in Black Skin, White Masks of how the racist gaze makes him an object surrounded by other objects. Its narrative charts the author’s intellectual move from an attempt to fathom the world and how it works to an advocacy of what Fanon sees as an everyday openness to each other. In recounting how the family photograph as object survives the living body, and telling of the search for a missing family member in the archives, it traces the interweaving of life and thought over time. It is underpinned by an anger at objectification, and reveals how the unknown has an impact on what and who we think we know.

in Change and the politics of certainty
Open Access (free)
Jenny Edkins

The chapter examines Patricio Guzmán’s film Nostalgia for the Light, which is set in the Atacama Desert in Chile. The film juxtaposes the search of astronomers for the origins of the universe and that of archaeologists for the remnants of humans who passed through the desert – as well as the women who comb the desert floor for the remains of their disappeared relatives. The chapter argues that Guzmán’s film can be seen as an example of what Jacques Rancière calls the politics of aesthetics, and induces new ways of seeing.

in Change and the politics of certainty
Open Access (free)
Jenny Edkins

The chapter examines two projects that work to support relatives in their demand for justice after enforced disappearances in Mexico: the Huellas de la Memoria/Footprints of Memory project begun by Alfredo López, and Forensic Architecture’s Cartography of Violence, an interactive platform detailing the enforced disappearance of forty-three Ayotzinapa students. The two projects are very different, but both use and transform traces of disappearance to demand justice and both involve slow and painstaking work. One traces the footprints of relatives searching for missing people, and the other the traces in phone records, witness accounts and official reports of the abduction of the Ayotzinapa students.

in Change and the politics of certainty
Staff Security and Civilian Protection in the Humanitarian Sector
Miriam Bradley

In 2015, Action Contre la Faim launched a campaign calling on the UN to create a new post, that of a Special Rapporteur for the protection of humanitarian aid workers. Critics of the proposal claimed, inter alia, that creating such a post would imply that aid workers were a special category of civilians, worthy of protection over and above that accorded the wider population in the contexts in which they work. This raises an important issue which runs deeper than the campaign for a Special Rapporteur. The present article argues that, with or without such a post, the current situation is one in which humanitarian agencies treat aid workers as distinct and separate from the wider civilian population, and take significantly different measures for the safety of their staff from those they take for other civilians. For the most part, the distinction and associated differences are uncritically accepted, and this article sets out to challenge such acceptance by highlighting the nature of the differences, assessing possible explanations for the underlying distinction and considering its implications. Through this analysis, the article argues that this distinction not only reflects but also reinforces an unequal valuing of lives internationally.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Emmanuelle Strub

A security advisor for Médecins du Monde France between 2012 and 2016, Emmanuelle Strub recalls her experience and some of the major shifts in risk management in the NGO sector in recent years. In particular, at a time of global normalisation of the aid sector, she describes her own efforts to streamline security management in her organisation: empowering field teams and, in particular, heads of mission, emphasising the crucial role of obtaining consent from the various stakeholders in the countries of intervention, and developing security trainings, crisis-management tools and a risk-management methodology. Yet, she warns, the trend today, with the advent of the duty-of-care concept, is to shift the use of risk management from enabling operations and facilitating access to populations to protecting the organisation from legal or reputational risks.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Fabrice Weissman

This article discusses the policy of absolute secrecy on abductions adopted by aid organisations. It argues that the information blackout on past and current cases is to a large extent a function of the growing role of private security companies in the aid sector, which promote a ‘pay, don’t say’ policy as a default option, whatever the situation. The article contends that secrecy is as much an impediment to resolving current cases as it is to preventing and managing future ones. It suggests abandoning the policy of strict confidentiality in all circumstances – a policy that is as dangerous as it is easy to apply – in favour of a more nuanced and challenging approach determining how much to publicise ongoing and past cases for each audience, always keeping in mind the interests of current and potential hostages.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Editor’s Introduction
Michaël Neuman, Fernando Espada, and Róisín Read
Journal of Humanitarian Affairs