Writing about Personal Experiences of Humanitarianism
Róisín Read, Tony Redmond, and Gareth Owen
humanitarian memoirs, there has been very little scholarship which focuses on them outside the history of humanitarianism. What role they play in contemporary humanitarianism is still unclear. Lisa Smirl (2012) considered what humanitarian memoir might tell us about the rites of passage of contemporary humanitarianism. Shameem Black draws on Emergency Sex , to argue that it reveals a racialised and sexualised cultural logic at the heart of humanitarianism which ‘connects humanitarianism to the idea of an adventurist colonial romance’ ( Black, 2011 : 54). Ina Friesen
An Interview with Celso Amorim, Former Brazilian Foreign Minister
shouldn’t be under any illusions that Brazil can
impose a new global order, not least because it will never be a dominant power. We don’t
have the conditions to dominate others politically and economically. And this perhaps allows for
a more egalitarian vision of the world.
Celso Amorim was Brazil’s foreign minister from 1993 to 1994 and 2003 to 2010. An
English translation of his most recent book was published in 2017: Acting Globally:
Memoirs of Brazil’s Assertive Foreign Policy (Lanham, MD: Rowman &
’s memoir Shake Hands with the Devil , gives a searing account of the genocide from the perspective of the commander of the UN contingent ( Dallaire, 2003 ). A range of other non-scholarly texts, both memoirs and collections of testimonies, flesh out the human experience of the genocide.
Rather than giving a comprehensive account of everything published on the genocide since 1999, I want to turn to three specific issues where research has challenged – sometimes in subtle ways – Des Forges’ conclusions in Leave None to Tell .
Questions of Planning
As in his
The First World War was the first ‘total war’. Its industrial weaponry damaged millions of men, and drove whole armies underground into dangerously unhealthy trenches. Many were killed. Others suffered from massive, life-threatening injuries; wound infections such as gas gangrene and tetanus; exposure to extremes of temperature; emotional trauma; and systemic disease. Tens of thousands of women volunteered to serve as nurses to alleviate their suffering. Some were fully-trained professionals; others had minimal preparation, and served as volunteer-nurses. Their motivations were a combination of compassion, patriotism, professional pride and a desire for engagement in the ‘great enterprise’ of war. The war led to an outpouring of war-memoirs, produced mostly by soldier-writers whose works came to be seen as a ‘literary canon’ of war-writing. But nurses had offered immediate and long-term care, life-saving expertise, and comfort to the war’s wounded, and their experiences had given them a perspective on industrial warfare which was unique. Until recently, their contributions, both to the saving of lives and to our understanding of warfare have remained largely hidden from view. ‘Nurse Writers of the Great War’ examines these nurses’ memoirs and explores the insights they offer into the nature of nursing and the impact of warfare. The book combines close biographical research with textual analysis, in order to offer an understanding of both nurses’ wartime experiences and the ways in which their lives and backgrounds contributed to the style and content of their writing.
assistance in their increasingly technological work.3 In elite schools, such as those of London, Edinburgh,
New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, nurses were given theoretical
instruction by doctors, and were then assisted by nurse tutors and
head nurses in developing the art of translating such knowledge into
expert practice. This process resulted in an increasing sense of autonomy among nurses, who saw their role as something that went well
beyond that of doctor’s assistant.
Two highly trained nurses, one British, the other American, wrote
significant memoirs of their
Epic romance on Western and
Introduction: the romance of volunteer work
Most volunteer nurses of the First World War were female, young,
and – within the limits of their time – well educated. They were more
likely than trained nurses to publish memoirs of the war. Somewhat
paradoxically, they were also more likely to write about the intricacies
of nursing practice. While the writings of trained nurses focused on
the courage and endurance of patients, those of volunteers emphasised the drama of nursing itself. Chapter 8 explored the ways in
voices of trained
nurses remained mostly silent.
This book offers an analysis of the published war memoirs of
nurses – both trained and volunteer. It examines the ways in which
the cultural and social backgrounds of nurse writers influenced
the ways in which they wrote. It is both a collective biography of a
small but significant group, and an exploration of a particular type
of cultural output. It asks: What were the experiences of nurses who
wrote war memoirs? What motivated them to write? What images
of themselves and their work did they project? What meanings
Margaret Atwood’s thriller Bodily Harm ( 1998  ). While the two novels omit any direct
reference to a specific country, they speak strongly to the
particularity of the smaller Caribbean islands. Finally, I read two
political memoirs by Prime Ministers of St Vincent for what they reveal
about the frontier: that of James ‘Son’ Mitchell, Prime
Minister from 1984 to 2001, and the other by his successor, Ralph
to destruction. It was also an act of feminism. In her later memoir,
Testament of Experience, Brittain described how she had read the
war memoirs of Robert Graves, Richard Aldington, Erich Maria
Remarque, Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Blunden, and Siegfried
Sassoon, and wondered: ‘Why should these young men have the war
to themselves?’.41 Women, too, had entered war with high ideals, suffered disillusionment, and then somehow found the courage to go on.
Although Testament of Youth was written primarily in memory of the
men Brittain had lost – her fiancé