Medical Humanitarianism: Ethnographies of Practice

Medical Humanitarianism: Ethnographies of Practice

Medical Humanitarianism: Ethnographies of Practice

Medical Humanitarianism: Ethnographies of Practice


Medical humanitarianism--medical and other health-related initiatives undertaken in conditions born of conflict, neglect, or disaster --has a prominent and growing presence in international development, global health, and human security interventions. Medical Humanitarianism: Ethnographies of Practice features twelve essays that fold back the curtains on the individual experiences, institutional practices, and cultural forces that shape humanitarian practice.

Contributors offer vivid and often dramatic insights into the experiences of local humanitarian workers in the Afghan-Pakistan border areas, national doctors coping with influxes of foreign humanitarian volunteers in Haiti, military doctors working for the British Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, and human rights-oriented volunteers within the Israeli medical bureaucracy. They analyze our contested understanding of lethal violence in Darfur, food crises responses in Niger, humanitarian knowledge in Ugandan IDP camps, and humanitarian departures in Liberia. They depict the local dynamics of healthcare delivery work to alleviate human suffering in Somali areas of Ethiopia, the emergency metaphors of global health campaigns from Ghana to war-torn Sudan, the fraught negotiations of humanitarians with strong state institutions in Indonesia, and the ambiguous character of research ethics espoused by missions in Sierra Leone. In providing well-grounded case studies, Medical Humanitarianism will engage both scholars and practitioners working at the interface of humanitarian medicine, global health interventions, and the social sciences. They challenge the reader to reach a more critical and compassionate understanding of humanitarian assistance.

Contributors: Sharon Abramowitz, Tim Allen, Ilil Benjamin, Lauren Carruth, Mary Jo DelVecchio-Good, Alex de Waal, Byron J. Good, Stuart Gordon, Jesse Hession Grayman, Jean-Hervé Jézéquel, Peter Locke, Amy Moran-Thomas, Patricia Omidian, Catherine Panter-Brick, Peter Piot, Peter Redfield, Laura Wagner


Peter Piot

Having spent four decades of my professional life addressing health care issues and pursuing social change, I welcome this timely and thoughtful volume that engages scholars and practitioners working at the intersection of medical science, anthropology, and emergency humanitarianism. the field of humanitarian health, as it takes a higher priority on the global agenda, needs such sensitive and expert study of the intersection of humanitarian medicine and global health interventions.

As a practitioner and scientist in Belgium, in what was then Zaire, and subsequently through the United Nations on a global scale, I have learned the hard way about the extreme complexity involved in tackling the challenges of infectious diseases and epidemics, as well as the holistic nature of human health and well-being. This personal and professional journey has also compelled me to become a practitioner of the art of politics at all levels: from the micropolitics of the village or the laboratory to the international politics of energizing the United Nations system to respond to an entirely novel threat, such as the aids pandemic or the West African Ebola crisis.

The politics of human health has obliged me to study and practice the methods of social anthropology, becoming a reflective observer as well as a participant. Questioning the cultural and scientific premises of our approaches to humanitarian assistance and being prepared to see the problem from others’ points of view are necessary to tackle the biggest international public health and humanitarian challenges of our time.

Medical humanitarianism is an especially vital area of comparative and analytical research. As this field of scholarship grows, we are seeing important quantitative and qualitative research, alongside the development of . . .

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