An essay on the anthropology of humanitarian shame

In this article published in Public Anthropologist Nefissa Naguib explores humanitarian shame among local providers of aid in Norway. 

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In this essay, Nefissa Naguib focuses on those providing aid, and specifically on the members of the ad-hoc, loosely organized group Refugees Welcome to the Arctic (RWTA) who are ordinary people seeking to right, in whatever small way they can, what Stephen O’Brien (UN Emergency Relief Coordinator) has coined “the humanitarian shame upon us all.” The author is most interested not in exploring the effects and scale of these relief interventions—the everyday humanitarianism—or their unintended consequences, but rather in looking at these efforts from the perspective of the grassroots providers in Norway, far from the locus of the disaster.

The author proposes that as scholars of the human condition anthropologists can use their ethnographic approach, attentive to local voices and grounded interpretations, to closely follow the refugees along the different routes they take—from the camps and detention barracks, to points of transit, and then further. Following them as far as they can to investigate what the refugee crisis reveals about what she calls ‘humanitarian pluralism’, a term that illuminates the spaces/places/distances and ambivalences that surround humanitarian situations and actions.

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Published Sep. 25, 2018 10:10 AM - Last modified Feb. 25, 2021 10:06 AM