The Politics of Difference in Humanitarian Practice

Abstract

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The Politics of Difference in Humanitarian Practice: Old Realities, New Questionings?

In 2020, there were renewed calls for humanitarian aid to decolonise - to change the power hierarchies embedded in its everyday practices. Everyday humanitarian practice is shaped by, and reproduces, the very forms of inequality that its egalitarian values seek to transcend. Scholars have begun to examine the politics of difference in humanitarianism in more detail: how social categories of difference operate in an industry built on the idea of universal humanity. These studies reveal how different intersectional identities impact on experiences of aid work, whilst institutional practices reproduce hierarchies amongst different staff and populations, reflecting and exacerbating global structures of inequity (Benton 2016; Kothari 2006; Peters 2020; James 2020; Bardelli 2019). Too often, the literature still focuses on international/local as the primary category of distinction, overlooking the intersecting hierarchies of gender, race, class, region which are embedded in humanitarian practices (Read 2018; Benton 2016; Hirsch 2021).
We invite papers that explore these issues, particularly with an ethnographic or historical approach, with a focus on the experiences of people working on ‘national’ staff humanitarian contracts or those interacting with humanitarian regimes (that is, “beneficiaries” of aid programs). This panel is interested in examining how people contest the hierarchical logics intrinsic in humanitarianism and invites authors to explore how these hierarchical practices in the humanitarian governance interact with broader, longer-term structures of inequality in different societies.

Date(s) & Time(s)

November 3rd, 2021
16:00 (GMT +1)
Room 24
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Organiser(s)

Nora Bardelli
Myfanwy James

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