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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

2 - Humanitarianism’s Way in the World

from Part I - Genealogies and Contexts


This chapter seeks to recover forgotten ideological and structural causes behind humanitarianism, ones which have been eclipsed by its association which the fraught aid industry, the white saviour syndrome, and the general ineffectiveness of sentimentality when it comes to humanitarian action. Distinguishing between the worlds of “missionary” and “emergency” humanitarian expression (with histories dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, originating separately in discourses of reform and abolition, and that of crises such as natural disaster and war), the authors show how these two strands present widely different narratives and concepts of suffering, innocence, temporality, witnessing, evidence, and so on.