In this article, we examine statements by state officials and individuals from the military and the medical establishment regarding the provision of medical aid by Israel to casualties from the Syrian Civil War. We argue discussions of this project have been characterized by three different discourses, each dominant at different times, which we classify as military, medical, and political-security. We propose “unintended securitization” to describe how the project moved from the military into the medical-civilian and then into the political sphere, and came to be seen as advancing the security interests of the Israeli state. We argue the relationship between humanitarianism and securitization seen here challenges the view that humanitarian apparatuses are often subordinated to military rationales by showing how securitization here emerged from the demilitarization of what was initially a military project.
Military, Medical, and Political-Security Discourses in the Humanitarian Treatment of Syrian Casualties in Israel
Hedva Eyal and Limor Samimian-Darash
Case Studies from West Africa
Emilie Venables and Umberto Pellecchia
The articles in this special issue demonstrate, through ethnographic fieldwork and observations, how anthropologists and the methodological tools of their discipline became a means of understanding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa during 2014 and 2015. The examples, from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, show how anthropologists were involved in the Ebola outbreak at different points during the crisis and the contributions their work made. Discussing issues including health promotion, gender, quarantine and Ebola survivors, the authors show the diverse roles played by anthropologists and the different ways in which they made use of the tools of their discipline. The case studies draw upon the ethical, methodological and logistical challenges of conducting fieldwork during a crisis such as this one and offer reflections upon the role of anthropology in this context.
An Auxiliary Nurse’s Memories of World War I
The scrapbooks and wartime papers of American Alma A. Clarke reveal how one woman repurposed gendered propaganda during the Great War. Clarke was in France from January 1918 to July 1919 as both a child welfare worker with the Comité franco-américain pour la protection des enfants de la frontier and as an auxiliary nurse in the American Red Cross Military Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine. The Great War provided Clarke with new ways to contribute, new arenas in which to share her expertise, and perhaps most importantly, new perspectives on the significance of her contributions to society.
Congolese Refugees Seeking Cosmological Continuity in Urban Asylum
Avoiding poison refers here to practices of securitization that enable refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to exert agency in urban asylum in Uganda. I consider that the stakes of poisoning are not exclusively understood in terms of physiological survival, but are existential, relating to the ways that Congolese refugees imbue purpose in their lives through acts that restore cosmological continuity. Focusing on the cosmological logics through which refugees experience urban asylum, I argue that practices of avoiding poison can be seen as acts of securitization whereby refugees exert agency in precarious contexts of urban asylum.
Perspectives from a Network for Refugee Assistance
Shawn Teresa Flanigan and Mounah Abdel-Samad
This article presents early qualitative data from an ongoing project that includes interviews with members of a Syrian diaspora network engaged in giving and receiving philanthropy. With the onset of the Syrian refugee crisis, the network began to provide education for displaced Syrian children in Lebanon in addition to its other activities. The purpose of the research project is to understand motivations and mechanisms of humanitarian assistance toward a conflict region, and also if and how the practice of philanthropy is tied to peacebuilding on the ground and individuals’ sense of political efficacy. This article gives particular attention to the civil society aspects of diasporan assistance, and how those engaged in humanitarian aid conceive of their influence on politics, policy, and peacebuilding.
The Dialectics of Displacement and Emplacement
Henrik Vigh and Jesper Bjarnesen
Wars unsettle our commonsense understandings of movement and mobility. Simultaneously entropic and inertial, they conjure up images of rampant disorder and chaos as well as strained and crippled formations locked in negative tension. On the one hand, detrimental movement; on the other, deadly stalemate. Both mobility and immobility are, as such, associated with the iconography of warfare and conflicts. They may be presented as out of time through pictures of empty streets, ruins, trenches, and dead bodies frozen in contorted positions, yet, conversely, some of the most archetypical images of war connote speed, flows, and movement, seen in images of troop advances or retreats, rows of traveling refugees, and hauls of humanitarian aid shipped or flown into airports and harbors from afar. In temporal terms, conflict and violence are oft en represented in the lethargy of decay or the entropy of aggression.
Gender Dimensions of Stigma in Sierra Leone’s Ebola Response
Olive Melissa Minor
As Response and Resilience Team Anthropologist for Oxfam GB, my role was to support an inclusive, community-led Ebola response through a better understanding of gender dynamics in the context of the outbreak. This case study identified stigma and blame of affected people as key factors in the ongoing epidemic. Despite social mobilisation efforts to address these attitudes, they remained ingrained in the Ebola response at multiple levels: in Government of Sierra Leone quarantine policies, in community by-laws and in everyday social interactions. Negative attitudes put pressure on the roles of men and women in ways that produced barriers to acting on Ebola prevention and treatment advice or creating an inclusive Ebola response. Our findings prompted several improvements in Ebola response activities that Oxfam Sierra Leone carried forward in their work, demonstrating the key role applied anthropology can play in creating a reflexive process to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian aid.
A Collaboration Among Refugee Newcomers, Migrants, Activists and Anthropologists in Berlin
Nasima Selim, Mustafa Abdalla, Lilas Alloulou, Mohamed Alaedden Halli, Seth M. Holmes, Maria Ibiß, Gabi Jaschke and Johanna Gonçalves Martín
In 2015, Germany entered what would later become known as the ‘refugee crisis’. The Willkommenskultur (welcoming culture) trope gained political prominence and met with significant challenges. In this article, we focus on a series of encounters in Berlin, bringing together refugee newcomers, migrants, activists and anthropologists. As we thought and wrote together about shared experiences, we discovered the limitations of the normative assumptions of refugee work. One aim of this article is to destabilise terms such as refugee, refugee work, success and failure with our engagements in the aftermath of the ‘crisis’. Refugee work is not exclusively humanitarian aid directed towards the alleviation of suffering but includes being and doing together. Through productive failures and emergent lessons, the collaboration enhanced our understandings of social categories and the role of anthropology.
Views from its day-to-day praxis
Since 1994, the Zapatista political autonomy project has been claiming that “another world is possible”. This experience has influenced many intellectuals of contemporary radical social movements who see in the indigenous organization a new political alter-native. I will first explore some of the current theories on Zapatism and the crossing of some of authors into anarchist thought. The second part of the article draws on an ethnography conducted in the municipality of Chenalhó, in the highlands of Chiapas, to emphasize some of the everyday practices inside the self-proclaimed “autonomous municipality” of Polhó. As opposed to irenic theories on Zapatism, this article describes a peculiar process of autonomy and brings out some contradictions between the political discourse and the day-to-day practices of the autonomous power, focusing on three specific points linked to economic and political constraints in a context of political violence: the economic dependency on humanitarian aid and the “bureaucratic habitus”; the new “autonomous” leadership it involved, between “good government” and “good management”; and the internal divisions due to the return of some displaced members and the exit of international aid.
The Transborder Immigrant Tool is a Border Disturbance Art Performance that discusses the physical and virtual limits of the U.S.–Mexico frontier. It was developed by the Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT) with the funding of the Arts and Humanities Grant 2007–2008 at the University of California in San Diego. The project uses an inexpensive GPS-enabled cell phone and a custom piece of software, the Virtual Hiker Algorithm, to guide border crossers in the desert. The crossing of the U.S.–Mexico border can be deadly due to the severe conditions of the environment; once in the Mexican desert, the software installed in the cell phone directs the immigrant toward the nearest aid site, be that water, first aid or law enforcement, along with other contextual navigational information. According to the EDT, the Transborder Immigrant Tool was created with the aim of reappropriating widely available technology to be used as a form of humanitarian aid, as well as offering a tactical intervention of distraction and disturbance in the order of transnational corridors. In addition to the navigational capabilities of the Tool, the performative effect is also provided through poetry made available on the screen of the cell phone. It is with this poetry that the artists attempt to rescue a sense of hospitality and to alleviate the difficulties of the journey.