Abstract: This article explores two recent books on the ethics of humanitarian action from the moral perspectives of the practitioner, and the tensions between personal desires to ‘do good’ and actual outcomes for suffering populations. The first work (Hugo Slim, Humanitarian Ethics) defends humanitarianism and prescribes correctives to its unintended negative consequences; the second (Liisa Malkki, The Need to Help) gives voice to Finnish aid workers who seek global connection and wider purpose through their work. Both authors frame humanitarian action in terms of an individual ethics whose insertion into a wider nexus of cause and effect generates new moral dilemmas and insights that often surpass the practitioner’s capacity to assess, critique and shape constructively.
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In our new issue we feature Amy Kapczynski’s essay on neoliberalism and the right to medicine. Also in this issue are essays on Armenians and the history of humanitarian evacuations, the changing politics of squatting in Britain, Chinese Humanism, and the genre of NGO reports in India. We end with a review essay on the attempt to outlaw war.View entire issue >
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This post is part of a symposium on Ayça Çubukçu’s book For the Love of Humanity: The World Tribunal on Iraq (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Attempting the Impossible, Doing the Necessary Sometimes, in trying to think through the history of the present, it’s helpful to begin at the end and work your way back. The reader who takes this approach to Ayça Çubukçu’s For the Love of Humanity: The World Tribunal on Iraq will be Continue reading →
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