Accepted paper:

Assemblages of intervention - aid workers in Haiti


Andrea Steinke (Centre for Humanitarian Action)

Paper short abstract:

The proposed paper, based on ethnographic analysis of the aid sector in post-earthquake Haiti between 2011 and 2018, will take international humanitarians at the heart of the analysis and unravel their intimate relationalities to anthropologists.

Paper long abstract:

In 2016, more than 663,000 people worked for the United Nations, the International Red Cross, and major international non-governmental organizations on an international assignment in countries of humanitarian and development intervention. Those "mobile professionals" (Fechter/Walsh 2010) inhabiting "aidland" (Apthorpe 2011), constituting a transnational network of privileged work migrants, are often driven by a common set of values, a particular perspective on modernity (Stirrat 2000) and share similar backgrounds, education and trajectories (Goetze 2017). Studies on the aid system in Haiti - a case in point considering the use of Haiti as a laboratory for intervention (Müller/Steinke 2018) - rarely focus on the ones steering the interventions as significant factors of analysis. Especially anthropologists often share time, space, background and a certain historicity with them. The paper, based on ethnographic analysis of the aid sector in post-earthquake Haiti between 2011 and 2018, argues that the anthropological neglect of the role of the "personal" (Fechter 2012) in those interventions is rooted in an incomplete reflexive turn in anthropology. Rather than solely inquiring the "otherness" of humanitarian beneficiaries, anthropologists should consider including the roots of "sameness" to humanitarian practitioners into their analysis, as the discipline as a whole is intimately related to colonial, developmentalist and humanitarian encounters. However, little ethnographic attention is given to the interveners, in terms of a "community of practice" (Autesserre 2014) as much as on their individual characteristics (Sending 2017) and how both factors influence the "assemblages of intervention" (Doucet 2106) affecting the fate of Haiti.

panel A02
Anthropological Contributions to Humanitarian Intervention