Being witness – being witnessed: the local gaze and perceptions of humanitarianism

Panel details

Panel organiser(s) will be presenting In-Person & Online
Number of paper presentations 2


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This panel seeks to enhance our understanding of local perspectives on humanitarians and humanitarian interventions in crisis and post-crisis communities. By examining narratives from the perspective of those who witness and have experienced humanitarian action, we can gain valuable insights into how aid interventions are perceived, what roles they play on the ground, and how they might be improved in the future.

The key question of this panel is what roles local narratives take on and what function they may have for crisis and post-crisis communities. By examining how local communities construct narratives about humanitarians and humanitarianism, we can better understand how interventions are seen and experienced by those who are directly impacted by them. This, in turn, will give clues into appropriate aid approaches and communication strategies and into how anticipated disasters may change in terms of capacity and mitigation measures.

Another question this panel will explore is how humanitarians can emerge as co-producers in these narratives, intentionally or unintentionally. Further, this panel will examine the sources and timelines that need to be considered when studying humanitarian interventions ‘from below’. Being hit by crisis may hamper the physical ability to document and to preserve not only material sources such as autobiographic accounts, diaries, photographs, oral transmission, essays, media coverage and interviews, but also memories linked with traumatic experiences. The production and type of sources preserved vary widely depending on historical period, the kind of crisis, its temporal evolution and the impact of environmental factors; yet, can we draw general lessons from narratives across time and crises?

Paper presentations

Available soon.

Date & Time

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Norbert Götz