Paper: De-colonising Humanitarian Studies?

Paper details

Paper authors Adriana Stibral
In panel on Decolonising aid? Issues and directions
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


Humanitarian Studies’ as an academic field of scholarship has started to rapidly emerge around the world approximately two decades ago. This is particularly visible in the Global North and especially on the postgraduate level. In the context of the revived ‘localisation’ debate, the fact that the majority of the humanitarian workforce consists of locally or nationally employed staff and, given that the locus of knowledge arguably is where the majority of humanitarian crises occur – namely outside the Global North – this paper examines why Humanitarian Studies is emerging mainly in the Global North. Based on a preliminary data analysis of over 40 conducted interviews with thought leaders from around the world, findings highlight issues around power imbalances and exclusion, given where the field is ballooning. Critical voices from the Global North and South emphasise the opportunities of this newly emerging field but equally argue for the need to de-centralise and/or de-colonise Humanitarian Studies. Unclear what ‘de-colonisation’ of this field exactly entails or means, generated recommendations include the creation of non-Western designed context-specific university programs as well as additional knowledge hubs in regions outside the North and without the intervention of the North. Humanitarian Studies needs to be more inclusive of the Global South regarding teaching, curriculum design, research, non-Western approaches to humanitarianism and knowledge production as well as stronger collaborations and partnerships based on mutuality and solidarity.



Adriana Stibral