International Relations

A Focus on Community Engagement
Frédéric Le Marcis, Luisa Enria, Sharon Abramowitz, Almudena-Mari Saez, and Sylvain Landry B. Faye

Community engagement is commonly regarded as a crucial entry point for gaining access and securing trust during humanitarian emergencies. In this article, we present three case studies of community engagement encounters during the West African Ebola outbreak. They represent strategies commonly implemented by the humanitarian response to the epidemic: communication through comités de veille villageois in Guinea, engagement with NGO-affiliated community leadership structures in Liberia and indirect mediation to chiefs in Sierra Leone. These case studies are based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out before, during and after the outbreak by five anthropologists involved in the response to Ebola in diverse capacities. Our goal is to represent and conceptualise the Ebola response as a dynamic interaction between a response apparatus, local populations and intermediaries, with uncertain outcomes that were negotiated over time and in response to changing conditions. Our findings show that community engagement tactics that are based on fixed notions of legitimacy are unable to respond to the fluidity of community response environments during emergencies.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Interpreting Violence on Healthcare in the Early Stage of the South Sudanese Civil War
Xavier Crombé and Joanna Kuper

This article seeks to document and analyse violence affecting the provision of healthcare by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and its intended beneficiaries in the early stage of the current civil war in South Sudan. Most NGO accounts and quantitative studies of violent attacks on healthcare tend to limit interpretation of their prime motives to the violation of international norms and deprivation of access to health services. Instead, we provide a detailed narrative, which contextualises violent incidents affecting healthcare, with regard for the dynamics of conflict in South Sudan as well as MSF’s operational decisions, and which combines and contrasts institutional and academic sources with direct testimonies from local MSF personnel and other residents. This approach offers greater insight not only into the circumstances and logics of violence but also into the concrete ways in which healthcare practices adapt in the face of attacks and how these may reveal and put to the test the reciprocal expectations binding international and local health practitioners in crisis situations.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
The Marshall Plan films about Greece
Katerina Loukopoulou

This chapter examines how Marshall Plan documentary films about reconstruction in Greece mobilised national culture and identity politics in their audio-visual rhetoric. Addressing the films’ humanitarian narratives, the chapter suggests Marshall Plan documentaries inaugurated a visual politics of neo-humanitarianism. It analyses how classical antiquity is evoked in the films to stand not only for Greece’s reconstruction but also for Western Europe’s future and its alignment with the US vision of a geopolitical ‘pax Americana’. Focusing on Humphrey Jennings’ The Good Life (1952), the chapter explores a historical dialectic between modern and classical Greece that positions the Marshall Plan aid within a dual perspective of national reconstruction and universal necessity.

in Global humanitarianism and media culture
Laura Suski

This chapter considers the limitations of political consumerism as a channel for a humanitarian impulse and explores whether the everyday practice of consumption can be a space of care and concern for international justice. Analysing the consumption of children’s toys and the online discussions of boycotting ‘unsafe’ toys, the chapter explores how a neoliberal parenting culture in the West, which promotes a highly individualised and intensive model of parenting, affects a more universal and collective call for a global international humanitarianism. While social media provides opportunities to share and discuss information about toy safety, it is argued that emotion is an important part of humanitarian mobilisation, and that the emotions of consumption are often thwarted by the identity politics of consumption.

in Global humanitarianism and media culture
Offline and online games, branding and humanitarianism at the Roskilde Festival
Lene Bull Christiansen and Mette Fog Olwig

This chapter asks whether it is possible to harness the powers of ‘the popular’ and media culture in the service of humanitarianism. There is a need to critically balance an analysis of the potentially progressive and/or problematic aspects of a popularised humanitarian event. Exploring the energies that are at play in the popular ‘carnival’ of the Danish Roskilde Festival, this chapter examines how the carnivalesque can function both as a form of corporate branding and as a means to destabilise the status quo identified with a negatively branded segment of the population. The chapter also analyses the expansion of the festival into cyberspace, and the offline–online interconnectivity of the festvial’s humanitarian events

in Global humanitarianism and media culture
Open Access (free)
The management of migration between care and control
Pierluigi Musarò

The representation strategies and discursive practices enacted by a wide range of state and non-state actors present the Mediterranean Sea as the setting of a perpetual emergency. European and national political agencies, military authorities, humanitarian organisations and activists have been representing migrants crossing borders as a significant problem to be managed in terms of a wider social, cultural and political ‘crisis’. This chapter focuses on the ambiguities and contradictions that bedevil discourses and practices around control and care of human mobility in the Mediterranean. It addresses the role of ‘crisis’ narratives and the hyper-visibility of the ‘military-humanitarian spectacle of the border’ in obscuring the political stakes surrounding European borders.

in Global humanitarianism and media culture

This collection interrogates the representation of humanitarian crisis and catastrophe, and the refraction of humanitarian intervention and action, from the mid-twentieth century to the present, across a diverse range of media forms: traditional and contemporary screen media (film, television and online video) as well as newspapers, memoirs, music festivals and social media platforms (such as Facebook, YouTube and Flickr). The book thus explores the historical, cultural and political contexts that have shaped the mediation of humanitarian relationships since the middle of the twentieth century. Together, the chapters illustrate the continuities and connections, as well as the differences, which have characterised the mediatisation of both states of emergency and acts of amelioration. The authors reveal and explore the significant synergies between the humanitarian enterprise, the endeavour to alleviate the suffering of particular groups, and media representations, and their modes of addressing and appealing to specific publics. The chapters consider the ways in which media texts, technologies and practices reflect and shape the shifting moral, political, ethical, rhetorical, ideological and material dimensions of international humanitarian emergency and intervention, and have become integral to the changing relationships between organisations, institutions, governments, individual actors and entire sectors.

Open Access (free)
Michael Lawrence and Rachel Tavernor
in Global humanitarianism and media culture
From starving children to satirical saviours
Rachel Tavernor

This chapter examines how the development of social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, has changed humanitarian NGOs’ media practices and subsequently altered the ways that supporters and publics are engaged. The chapter contributes an understanding of how people participate in these differing narratives on Facebook, and considers ‘everyday’ humanitarian actions so as to address the engagement that is often excluded in political discourses that focus on institutional politics. Facebook algorithms, along with the architects of Facebook, have now become the new ‘gatekeepers’ of humanitarian communication and NGOs have started to adapt their visual depictions of humanitarianism. In particular, this chapter proposes that the Facebook ‘like’, and users’ interaction online, changes the visual communication used by contributing to the governance of visibility.

in Global humanitarianism and media culture
Grassroots exceptionalism in humanitarian memoir
Emily Bauman

Memoir has for some time played a significant role in the expansion and interpretation of the humanitarian industry. For both the relief and development industries memoir is admirably suited as an ambassador from the field to the larger public, oriented as it is to personal experience and testimony. This chapter explores how humanitarian memoir generates an aura of authenticity much-needed by an industry reliant on public donations and on the perception of its status as a player outside the systems of state sovereignty and global capital. Analysing two founder narratives, this chapter considers the ‘humanitarian naive’ at work: the role of the ‘fool’ proves both revelatory and empowering, asserting the value of sui generis intelligence to produce humanitarian knowledge and even participate in global governance.

in Global humanitarianism and media culture