Who or what constitutes the humanitarian?

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Number of paper presentations 9


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According to the Red Cross, a humanitarian “is a person who prevents and alleviates human suffering wherever it may be found”. Yet, as the humanitarian sector increasingly professionalises, the space for those from diverse backgrounds and in even remoter places becomes ever tighter to squeeze through. Unpaid internships, expectations for master's degrees, lack of support for dependents mean a certain kind of person fits the humanitarian mould. This panel seeks to understand who is seen as a humanitarian and who is allowed to perform as a humanitarian? We invite papers which aim to interrogate who or what constitutes a humanitarian and those which query the intersectionality, power, privilege and accessibility of the “citizens of aidland” in all aspects of the sector (Fechter 2011). Papers may choose to consider the explosion of humanitarian courses available throughout a career in the sector; or examine the inequalities between expat and local aid workers; or ask questions of how we define and contextualise who can claim the title humanitarian? These enquiries into the the professional humanitarian, whoever they may be, raise questions over who has the monopoly over knowledge, ideas and quite often the rules of humanitarian response. We seek to understand what the inclusions, exclusions and “rituals of entry” are in an increasingly professional and awkward sector to navigate.

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