Abstract: Since 2015, grassroots volunteers have emerged as key actors in the humanitarian response to Europe’s “refugee crisis.” Based on ethnographic research on the Greek island of Chios and in Paris, this essay explores how volunteers navigate the ethical and political dilemmas inherent to humanitarian action in their everyday encounters with refugees. We argue that while volunteers sometimes mimic disciplinary humanitarian practices, the exchange of “biographical life” in and beyond camps allows volunteers to reimagine a more dignified provision of care and for creative solidarities to emerge. The presence of volunteers, we conclude, thus plays an important role in re-humanizing and re-politicizing refugee spaces, thereby challenging—even if momentarily—dominant humanitarian logics.
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Our latest issue of Humanity is out! It features essays on refugee theory and the necessity of trespass in Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year; the Balfour declaration as an instrument of imperial protection and Palestinian dispossession; late-Soviet economic thought and global debates over the role of state planning in development; the role of Brazilian Liberation Theology in framing Western European human rights media coverage of Brazil’s military dictatorship; the Standing Rock protests as offering a language of human rights not oriented towards the state; and a review of three recent books that theorize human rights in the face of critique.View entire issue >
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