Paper: Embodying difference: reading gender in women’s memoirs of humanitarianism

Paper details

Paper authors Róisín Read
In panel on One humanitarian club or many? The setting up of boundaries between and among humanitarian organizations
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This paper seeks to explore what we can learn about embodied difference in humanitarianism and peacebuilding by taking seriously women’s memoirs as a form of ‘flesh witnessing’ (Harari 2009). It argues that the essays in Chasing Misery (Hoppe 2014a) are simultaneously claims to the authority of ‘The Field’ but also reveal the sense to which the women feel they are only ‘passing’ as aid workers. I note three themes of difference, beginning with the construction of ‘The Field’ as a site of embodied authority and the ways in which the women’s essays reinforce and trouble this. Secondly, the writers’ feeling different from, and separate to, the people they work with and for. Finally, embodied gender presented with reference to imagined ‘real’ aid worker.



Róisín Read
University of Manchester