Managing Displacement: Refugees and the Politics of Humanitarianism

Synopsis

Media images of people whose lives are destroyed by international and civil conflicts have long engaged our imaginations and emotions. But what happens to these refugees after displacement, and who takes on the responsibility of reconstructing shattered lives? Since the end of the Cold War, patterns of refugee management have changed dramatically, as states look to avoid the legal obligations and costs of asylum. Working for humanitarian agencies in Kenya and Somalia, Jennifer Hyndman determined that in spite of their best efforts, too often the camps in which these agencies operate can offer only a short-term palliative. In Managing Displacement, Hyndman uses unique insider knowledge both to challenge the political and cultural assumptions of current humanitarian practices and to expose the distancing strategies that characterize present operations.

Managing Displacement looks specifically at the powerful organizations that serve refugees -- particularly the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Hyndman provides a close reading of humanitarianism on the ground as she examines the policies and practices of the organization at various levels. She offers constructive criticism of organizations like UNHCR, discerning patterns of "ordering disorder" and "disciplining displacement" in their responses to emergencies.