The Spanish Civil War stirred an array of humanitarian relief campaigns in France that placed women in the front lines of popular mobilization. As communists, socialists, liberals, antifascists, feminists and pacifists, French women invoked the iconography and language of sexual difference to construct pro-Republican aid appeals as an expression of gendered social concern above party politics. Through exploring the female leaderships, organization, and popular participation in different relief campaigns, this article emphasizes the extent to which Spanish aid efforts were dominated by tensions within the Front Populaire.
Humanitarian Aid, French Women, and Popular Mobilization during the Front Populaire
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.
Humanitarian House Visits, Performative Refugeehood, and Social Control of Syrians in Jordan
Through a hospitality lens, the article looks at an Evangelical grassroots organization’s practice of house visits to Syrian refugees in Mafraq, Jordan. It begins by situating the hosting practices of European volunteers in the context of Mafraq’s multi-layered NGO environment and within the emerging literature on the role of transnational support networks in faith-based humanitarianism. A review of philosophical and anthropological literatures reveals how power dynamics and bordering practices shape the hospitality encounter. Its function as a scale-shifter between the local and the national makes “hospitality” well-suited for the study of displacement. Subsequent parts of the article explore volunteers’ acts of infringement on Syrians’ hospitality code that allow them to “contain” refugees’ demands for aid. The final section revisits Boltanski’s theory of a “politics of pity” in communicating distant suffering. The set-up of house visits forces refugees to perform “suffering” which provides the raw material for volunteers’ moving testimonies back home.
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 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.
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.
In 1917 French and foreign agents reconstructed sections of Picardy destroyed by Operation Alberich, a “scorched-earth” program implemented by departing Germans. The region’s unanticipated maltreatment led French Third Army forces to evaluate and assist Picardy’s devastated homesteads and refugee-residents. Under General Georges Humbert, the Third Army implemented juxtaposing reconstruction policies in Picardy. Along with inhabitants, bureaucrats, and German prisoners of war, the Third Army initiated “a regime of temporary aid” that repaired property and provisioned civilians. Humbert’s subordinates also evacuated residents judged too ill, infirm, treacherous, or indolent for massive reconstruction projects. When extemporized statist programs proved insufficient for Picardy’s civilians, French ministries invited American and British humanitarians to inaugurate complementary and supplementary rehabilitation schemes designed to revive rural society and commerce. The conflicting confluence of these individuals’ consensual, coercive, patriotic, and philanthropic cultures de guerre within Picardy helped residents “demobilize” as refugees and “remobilize” for continued participation in World War I.
Shifting contexts, shifting meanings—examples from South Sudan
Since the late 1990s, researchers have been predicting that the era of neutrality in aid politics is coming to an end and that foreign organizations will have to take a more engaged stance. Yet while the boundaries between humanitarianism and development are fading, in some cases the neutrality norm is actually expanding rather than giving way to an engaged paradigm. Recognizing that the principles of neutrality and independence have different meanings for different actors and that they are applied in various ways, this article examines how the humanitarian developers—small NGOs operating in Jonglei State in South Sudan—use these paradigms. The article shows that their specific variant of neutrality is not so much a pragmatic tool enabling operations in difficult settings, but instead is a structural form of identity. In this variation, neutrality is not about the absence of a political stance, but about standing apart from social structures and social immunity.