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  • Cited by 1
  • Joy Damousi, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
July 2022
Print publication year:
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Book description

Spanning six decades from the formation of the Save the Children Fund in 1919 to humanitarian interventions during the Vietnam War, The Humanitarians maps the national and international humanitarian efforts undertaken by Australians on behalf of child refugees. In this longitudinal study, Joy Damousi explores the shifting forms of humanitarian activity related to war refugee children over the twentieth century, from child sponsorship, the establishment of orphanages, fundraising, to aid and development schemes and campaigns for inter-country adoption. Framed by conceptualisations of the history of emotions, and the limits and possibilities afforded by empathy and compassion, she considers the vital role of women and includes studies of unknown, but significant, women humanitarian workers and their often-traumatic experience of international humanitarian work. Through an examination of the intersection between racial politics and war refugees, Damousi advances our understanding of humanitarianism over the twentieth century as a deeply racialised and multi-layered practice.


‘Joy Damousi takes her readers on a captivating journey through the history of generations of Australian humanitarians and their relationships with child refugees. This brilliant, meticulously researched book brings new light to the shifting categories of humanitarianism and transnationalism and their political, moral, and emotional dimensions.'

Bruno Cabanes - The Ohio State University

‘This is a highly sophisticated, ambitious, and deeply researched book that focuses on children as refugees within the intertwined themes of war and humanitarianism through the twentieth century. It is compelling and original, full of big ideas framed around fascinating biographical studies of humanitarians, many of whom we have never heard of before.'

Melanie Oppenheimer - The Australian National University

‘Damousi's fine book tells the story of a community of humanitarians, dedicated to protecting children from the ravages of war. It spans the globe and the years from the Great War to the Vietnam War. Here is the story of men and women driving forward a dazzling range of initiatives aiming in different ways to save, evacuate, assimilate or adopt children at risk on account of war. This is social and cultural history at its best.'

Jay Winter - Yale University

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