Click the star to add/remove an item to/from your individual schedule.
You need to be logged in to avail of this functionality, and to see the links to virtual rooms.

Accepted Paper:

Humanitarian Epistemics and the Resilience Debate: Liminal Critique as Moral Labour  
Malay Firoz (Arizona State University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper traces humanitarian morality through liminal utterances of auto-critique among aid workers around resilience-based approaches to aid in Jordan and Lebanon, revealing a heterogenous field of discourse sutured by different imaginaries of what constitutes a properly moral act.

Paper long abstract:

Humanitarian studies is marked by a structuring tension between two seemingly incongruent approaches to the epistemic status of morality in humanitarian reason. While macro-structural analyses treat the normative commitments of the “humanitarian-industrial complex” as a yardstick by which to diagnose the sector’s aggregate failures, ethnographic engagements with the phenomenological worlds of aid workers take humanitarian labour on its own terms as a moral striving to save life in duress. In this paper, I trace a different register of humanitarian ethics by addressing what Didier Fassin calls the “liminal” practice of auto-critique among aid workers themselves, i.e. formulations of ethical value articulated in the interstices of authorized discourse, which resist the carefully sanitized performances of moral consensus conveyed by official policy reports. Drawing on 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Jordan and Lebanon, I explore how aid workers grapple with their expanding responsibilities under the UN’s “resilience-based” approach to the Syrian refugee crisis, which calls on them to build resilience among both refugees and vulnerable citizens in asylum countries. Rather than simply “exposing” the limits of flawed policy, I attend to the minutiae of internal debates, fractures and contestations among aid workers around the resilience agenda, revealing a heterogenous field of discourse sutured by multiple imaginaries and rationalities of what constitutes a properly moral act. My paper thus offers a granular view of humanitarian morality as a radically contingent and open-ended labour, whose ends are perpetually subject to situational recalibration in the unstable arena of contemporary crises.

Panel P174a
Moral Labor in Humanitarian Projects [Anthropology of Humanitarianism Network (AHN)]
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -