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Open Access (free)
Batman Saves the Congo: How Celebrities Disrupt the Politics of Development
Alexandra Cosima Budabin
and
Lisa Ann Richey

This forum brings together a diverse group of scholars from political geography, international relations, critical organisation studies, global development, international studies and political sociology to explore the debates and dynamics of celebrity engagement with development and humanitarianism. The contributions here come from a series of roundtables organised in 2021, including one at the 6th World Conference on Humanitarian Studies of the International Humanitarian Studies Association in Paris that discussed the findings and insights of the book Batman Saves the Congo: How Celebrities Disrupt the Politics of Development (University of Minnesota Press, 2021).

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Lisette R. Robles

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a complicated challenge embedded in displaced people’s lived experiences throughout the conflict displacement cycle. Despite the awareness of existing institutionalised help-seeking referral pathways, these do not necessarily translate to the full utilisation of such services. This paper examines the critical role of refugee leaders and service providers in potentially enabling and realising a GBV survivor’s help-seeking. By adapting a meso-level analysis, it attempts to explain how social networks built within conflict and displacement contribute to responding to GBV. Based on the review of collected interviews in 2019 from refugee leaders and service providers working with South Sudanese refugees in selected settlements in Uganda, the paper reflects on the importance of network, norms and trust in effectively responding to GBV in conditions of conflict-affected displacement.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Phoebe Shambaugh
and
Bertrand Taithe
Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
What Lessons Can Be Drawn from Case Studies in France, the United States and Madagascar?
Hugo Carnell

Despite its long history, plague has not been an internationally significant disease since the mid-twentieth century, and it has attracted minimal modern critical attention. Strategies for treating plague are generally outdated and of limited effectiveness. However, plague remains endemic to a few developing nations, most prominently Madagascar. The outbreak of a major plague epidemic across several Madagascan urban areas in 2017 has sparked a wider discourse about the necessity of improving global preparedness for a potential future plague pandemic. Beyond updating treatment modalities, a key aspect of improving preparedness for such a pandemic involves a process of sophisticated review of historical public health responses to plague epidemics. As part of this process, this article outlines and compares public health responses to three separate epidemics from the early modern era onwards: Marseille in 1720–22, San Francisco in 1900–04 and Madagascar in 2017. Based on this process, it identifies three key themes common to successful responses: (1) clear, effective and minimally bureaucratic public health protocols; (2) an emphasis on combating plague denialism by gaining the trust and cooperation of the affected population; and (3) the long-term suppression of plague through the minimisation of contact between humans and infected small mammals.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Synchronicity in Historical Research and Archiving Humanitarian Missions
Bertrand Taithe
,
Mickaël le Paih
, and
Fabrice Weissman

This roundtable was convened on 5 July 2022 and built on five years of collaborative work in Cambodia and ongoing collaborations within the Centre de Reflexion sur l’Action et les Savoirs Humanitaires (CRASH) at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) between Bertrand Taithe, Mickaël le Paih and Fabrice Weissman. The central question raised in this discussion relates to two profoundly intermeshed issues for humanitarian practitioners and organisations: the use of history for humanitarian organisations, and the need for them to preserve and maintain archives.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Sara Wong

This article explores some of the challenges, learnings, reflections and opportunities involved in collaborating with grassroots artist collectives in conflict-affected places in academic settings. Using as a case study the collaborative production of the animated short film ‘Colombia’s Broken Peace’, as part of a wider international research project, I reflect on our experiences in co-producing this piece by drawing out lessons that might be relevant for others interested in undertaking similar inter-disciplinary work. In doing so, I aim to re-frame notions of ‘impact’ and ‘capacity building’ in conflict research to a more complex picture of mutual learning and knowledge exchange.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Gender Norm Change during Displacement?
Michelle Lokot

International humanitarian actors, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and United Nations agencies, often focus on gender norm change when conducting gender analysis among refugees and internally displaced persons. Dominant humanitarian narratives about gender in research reports, assessments and technical guidance reveal an underlying belief that displacement is causative – an external, intervening force. In such analysis, colonial and neoliberal ideologies may influence how refugees’ lives are represented, resulting in depictions of lack of modernity, tradition and culture as overarching (yet ill-defined) forces, and women and girls as vulnerable by default. Such analysis is frequently ahistorical, presented without analysis of the pre-displacement situation. This paper explores and challenges humanitarian narratives about gender norm change during displacement. It is based on feminist ethnographic research in Jordan with Syrian women and men as well as interviews with humanitarian workers. The paper demonstrates that assumptions about lack of empowerment of Syrian women and men may be misguided, identifying both subtle and more overt forms of Syrian women’s and men’s resistance’ to expected norms. It urges humanitarian actors to use ‘resistance’ as an alternative to analysing ‘change’, recognise heterogeneity within populations, resist ‘rapid’ data collection, challenge paternalistic and colonial stereotypes, and reflect complexity in analysis.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Regimes of value associated with the corpse in French nineteenth-century painting
Anaelle Lahaeye

There are many factors at work in the iconography of human remains. Some of those frequently discussed are aesthetic criteria, iconographic traditions and specific contingencies, whether political (for example in war paintings), symbolic (essential for transi images) or cultural. There is, however, one factor that is rarely mentioned, despite its centrality: the regime of value associated with corpses. Christ’s body is not painted in the same way as that of a departed relative or that used in a human dissection. Artists choose a suitable iconography depending on how the remains are perceived. This criterion became absolutely crucial in contexts such as nineteenth-century France, when attitudes to corpses underwent major changes.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
An interview with Vernelda Grant
Bridget Conley
and
Vernelda Grant

This edited transcript of conversations between an Apache cultural heritage professional, Vernelda Grant, and researcher Bridget Conley explores the knowledge that should guide the repatriation of human remains in the colonial context of repatriating Apache sacred, cultural and patrimonial items – including human remains – from museum collections in the United States. Grant provides a historical overview of the how Apache elders first grappled with this problem, following the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990) in the US Congress. She explains how and why community leaders made decisions about what items they would prioritise for repatriation. Central to her discussion is an Apache knowledge ecology grounded in recognition that the meaning of discrete items cannot be divorced from the larger religious and cultural context from which they come.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Burying the dead in times of pandemic
Diane O’Donoghue

Both historical and contemporary records of mass contagion provide occasions for visibility to persons who otherwise remain little recognised and even less studied: those who bury the dead. While global reports attest to self-advocacy among cemetery workers in the current COVID-19 pandemic, the psychological complexities of their labour go virtually unseen. Findings on the experiences of those doing such work reveal a striking contrast. While societal disavowal often renders their task as abject and forgettable, those who inter the remains frequently report affective connections to the dead that powerfully, and poignantly, undermine this erasure. Acknowledging such empathic relationality allows us to look at this profession in areas where it has never been considered, such as psychoanalytic work on ‘mentalisation’ or in contemporary ethics. The article concludes with an example from the accounts of those who have buried the dead in the massed graves on New York’s Hart Island.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal