Aid-land and the Congolese space of aid in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo: exploring proximity, identity and complementarity
Myfanwy James (University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the dynamics between international humanitarian workers and their national, Congolese colleagues in North Kivu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo - how multiple 'spaces of aid' interact and understand one another in 'Aid-land'.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the dynamics between international expatriate humanitarian workers and their national, Congolese colleagues in North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is a need for further ethnographic research that explores the multiple "spaces of aid" that operate within "Aid-land" and international organisations themselves - a space of rotating mobile expatriates, as well as spaces occupied by nationals and "in-pats" that remain an organisation's consistent representatives in a particular social, political context. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork exploring how humanitarians negotiate access with armed actors, this paper makes several interconnected points. Firstly, it explores a paradox within 'Aid-land': although humanitarian organisations aim to suspend the personal identity of their staff and replace it with that of a "humanitarian identity," these personal, politicised identities remain central to understanding everyday humanitarian practice. Secondly, this paper illustrates how the differing personal, politicised and racial identities and degree of local "proximity" or "embedded-ness" of expatriates and national humanitarians offer different advantages and disadvantages when navigating the local humanitarian arena, and determines the ways in which these multiple "spaces of aid" interact and work together. Thirdly, this paper explores the everyday dynamics between national and expatriate staff within aid agencies: how these "communities of practice" interact and understand one another. In particular, it explores national humanitarians' understandings of their stationary "Congolese space of aid" and how it complements the network of rapidly shifting, mobile expatriates, as well as the ways in which humanitarian organisations become sites of cultural exchange and mediation.
International intervention professionals - aid workers on the move