Citizen aid and everyday humanitarianism (JOURNAL SPECIAL ISSUE)

Fechter, Anne-Meike and Schwittay, Anke, eds. (2019) Citizen aid and everyday humanitarianism (JOURNAL SPECIAL ISSUE). Third World Quarterly, 40 (10). Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0000000000

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1. The introduction to this collection brings together, under the umbrella terms of citizen aid and grassroots humanitarianism, interdisciplinary research on small-scale, privately funded forms of aid and development. It notes the steady rise of these activities, including in the Global South as well as North, such as in the context of the recent European refugee crisis. It considers their position vis-à-vis more institutionalised forms of aid; methodological approaches and their challenges; and asks what political dimensions these initiatives may have. It outlines key themes arising from the contributions to the collection, including historical perspectives on ‘demotic humanitarianism’, questions of legitimacy and their apparent lack of professionalisation, motivations of their founders, the role of personal connections, as well as the importance of digital media for brokerage and fundraising. Being mindful of its critiques and implicit power imbalances, it suggests that citizen aid deserves more systematic academic attention.

2. The stated purpose of development is often characterised by the motivation to ‘help’- that is, to intervene in the lives of others in supportive ways. This paper argues that this perspective has obscured how development activities are also animated by its twin desire to ‘connect’. While this holds significance for development more broadly, it becomes particularly evident in a mode of assistance that has gained prominence more recently. These are privately funded, small-scale projects led by individual founders, here described as ‘citizen aid’. Based on ethnographic research among citizen aid initiatives in Cambodia, the paper argues that the relevance of ‘connecting’ has been insufficiently recognised so far. It explores different aspects of what participants mean by ‘making a connection’, including face-to-face contact, direct experience of aid activities, and their tangible efficacy. It also finds that establishing interpersonal relationships across national, ethnic and cultural differences, while potentially challenging, is a key motivation for those involved. Finally, the paper argues that acknowledging the desire to connect questions notions of the ‘distant stranger’ as the archetypical humanitarian object, highlighting the wish for familiarity and closeness as potentially just as important for motivating and directing assistance to others.

Item Type: Edited Book
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
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Depositing User: Sam Nesbit
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2021 14:34
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2021 13:58

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