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 new issue features a dossier on the moral economy. It includes essays on the history of ethics as part of economic life, economic justice in early modern Europe, land arrangements in Mexico, and debates over religion, the gift, social rights, and land reform. We also include an essay on Nicholas Kristof’s savior narratives on sex trafficking in Cambodia and an essay reflecting on the limits of humanitarian logics for refugee camp volunteers in Greece and France.View entire issue >
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