Post-Humanitarian Ecologies: from Spill-over Effects to Ambiguous Territorial Control in Chronic and Recurring Crises

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Number of paper presentations 3


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There has been an increasing interest in the socio-spatial effects of humanitarian action and its impact on areas and territories beyond the immediate concern of crisis response (Meiches 2015; Smirl 2015). Especially when crises become protracted, humanitarian governance may spill-over from its initial aims and boundaries and materialize as expanding influence over space and territory in economic, social, cultural and political ways (Barnett 2013; Williams 2015). For instance, the blurring of boundaries between protracted refugee camps and their host environments shapes alternative modes of inclusion for previously non-targeted people, and leads to forms of territorial control by aid actors in various countries in East Africa and the Middle East (Jansen 2018; Martin 2015; Oesch 2017). Similarly, national and regional capitals are impacted by large scale humanitarian presence that impacts on urban development and governance either by intention, or as “auxiliary effects” (Smirl 2015) of humanitarian presence for instance in Afghanistan and DR Congo (Büsscher and Vlassenroot 2010). These spill-over effects shed light on how the boundaries of humanitarian governance are crossed and negated by people, socio-economic processes and dynamics of governance and power, and how this impacts on broader processes of development and change. Moreover, it allows for the emergence of new and alternative humanitarian approaches and aims and aspirations, for instance in terms of environmental protection, host-society concerns, and ecological agendas.

This panel invites papers that focus on this blurring of boundaries between spaces, mandates and territory as the materialisation of spill-over effects of humanitarian governance. We are specifically interested in exploring what new forms, themes and areas of intervention emerge due to this blurring, and that expose the complex evolution of humanitarian action in long term, chronic and recurring crises.

This panel is hosted by: Bram Jansen & Gemma van der Haar, Sociology of Development and Change Group (SDC), Wageningen University

Barnett, Michael N. (2013), 'Humanitarian governance', Annual Review of Political Science, 16, 379-98.

Büscher, Karen and Vlassenroot, Koen (2010), 'Humanitarian presence and urban development; new opportunities and contrasts in Goma, DRC', Disasters, 34 (S2), S256-S73.

Martin, Diana (2015), 'From spaces of exception to ‘campscapes’: Palestinian refugee camps and informal settlements in Beirut', Political Geography, 44, 9-18.

Meiches, Benjamin (2015), 'A political ecology of the camp', Security Dialogue, 46 (5), 476-92.

Smirl, Lisa (2015), Spaces of aid: how cars, compounds and hotels shape humanitarianism (London: Zed Books).

Jansen, Bram J. (2018), Kakuma Refugee Camp. Humanitarian Urbanism in Kenya's Accidental City (London: Zed Books).

Oesch, Lucas (2017), 'The refugee camp as a space of multiple ambiguities and subjectivities', Political Geography, 60, 110-20.

Williams, Jill M. (2015), 'From humanitarian exceptionalism to contingent care: Care and enforcement at the humanitarian border', Political Geography, (47), 11-20.

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