Marie-Luce Desgrandchamps, Lasse Heerten, Arua Oko Omaka, Kevin O'Sullivan, and Bertrand Taithe

Bertrand : I would like to start with a very simple question: why should we care about the history of the Biafran conflict today? Lasse: What I have tried to understand in my work is how the Nigerian civil war became a global issue. Initially of very marginal international interest, the conflict from around summer 1968 on was perceived as the epitome of humanitarian crisis. I wanted to understand how it has become this ‘Biafra’, how

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Jeffrey Flynn

Lasse Heerten’s brilliant book on Biafra is Spectacles of Suffering. He remarks on the double meaning of the word spectacles in the concluding paragraph. When conflicts or disasters are transformed into global media events, they become spectacles. But it is also a synonym for eyeglasses – the spectacles of suffering are the lenses themselves, through which, in this case, Western observers see distant suffering. A central focus of Heerten’s book is how, for a brief few months in the summer of

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Editors’ Introduction
Marc Le Pape and Michaël Neuman

, germane to the issues surrounding situations of extreme violence, which recounts a research discussion entitled ‘Biafra, Humanitarian Intervention and History’ held in January 2020 in Manchester by the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute. The aim of the Paris conference was to present the investigative approaches used by social science researchers, humanitarian practitioners, human rights activists and journalists. This issue of the JHA shows that while these groups have different objectives and field practices, there are connections (and in some cases

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
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Humanity and Solidarity
Tanja R. Müller and Róisín Read

many may remember, was also (together with Eritrea, then 1983–85) at the heart of what has been described as the ‘archetypal media famine’ ( Moeller, 1999 ). More than 50 years after Biafra, that saw the birth or acceleration of humanitarian action and a sea change in definitions of what humanitarian action may be, and more than 35 years after the ‘Ethiopian famine’, we still grapple with similar issues around spectacles of suffering, advocacy, political instrumentalisation and conceptions of solidarity

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Editors’ Introduction
Tanja R. Müller and Gemma Sou

pessimistic warnings about unintended consequences. Equally, there is a long history of how humanitarian endeavours have played a role in sustaining or exacerbating conflicts, where humanitarians intervened with the best moral and ethical intentions and principles but in the end were arguably pivotal in prolonging suffering, a pertinent example being the then ‘innovative’ humanitarian interventions in the secessionist war in Biafra that ended 50 years ago and has been a milestone in re

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
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Negotiated Exceptions at Risk of Manipulation
Maelle L’Homme

, political or military motives. Famous examples from the Second World War include Operation Kindertransport in which Jewish children were evacuated from areas under Nazi rule to the UK, and Operation Pied Piper in which British civilians, mostly children, were relocated from high- to low-risk areas to protect them from aerial bombings. The airlift technique was applied to humanitarian action as early as 1968 in Biafra, to circumvent the blockade imposed on the enclave by the Nigerian army. Considered the world’s largest civilian airlift, with 5,300 flights delivering 60

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Arjun Claire

the organisation’s public advocacy ( Binet, 2010 : 148). This soon resulted in the establishment of an epidemiology unit within MSF, Epicentre , leading to what some have called the rise of the ‘expert witness’ ( Givoni, 2011 ). The témoin Turns an Advocate The Biafra war (1967–70) spawned modern humanitarianism, where for the first time private aid groups breached state borders to provide assistance and publically condemned the

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Valérie Gorin

spectrum and témoignage is one of those. [At MSF, we want] to speak out and highlight the plights of populations caught in humanitarian crises. In those days [before MSF was created], we didn’t have social media, TV was just coming out and unless you put on a table what was happening in Nigeria during the Biafra war, it was not necessarily attracting attention from the global world. So out of outrage we were bearing witness. 1 Through the years, of course, other organizations realized it doesn’t necessarily change policies on the preemptive level. For MSF, we

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
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Lewis Hine’s Photographs of Refugees for the American Red Cross, 1918–20
Sonya de Laat

: 121–2). 17 Historian Peter Gatrell ( 2005 ) notes that ‘refugeedom’, a term he translated from a popular Russian word, has been used to refer to the conditions and experience of being a refugee since 1915. 18 In relation to scholarship on humanitarian photography, the 1984 Ethiopian famine is often cited as the originator of the trope of the starving child. Suzanne Franks (2013) recognizes that the 1967–70 famine in Biafra just as easily can be, and is, seen by many – particularly those for whom those images form part of their living memory – as

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
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The adolescent girl and the nation
Elleke Boehmer

(1940), a realist narrative of qualified daughterly rebellion set in North America; the Nigerianborn London writer Buchi Emecheta’s Destination Biafra (1982), a journalistic tale which intervenes in a history of civil (hence fraternal) conflict in order to foreground the role of a woman go-between; and the American-born Canadian Carol Shields’s Unless (2002), a mother’s story in which a daughter’s silence is presented as protest.3 The chapter will concentrate in particular on the daughter’s position in the three novels relative to the family, tradition or community

in Stories of women