Problematizing crisis : re-reading humanitarianism as postcolonial organizing

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dc.contributor.advisor Mills, Albert J., 1945-
dc.creator Rostis, Adam Patrick
dc.date.accessioned 2011-12-20T16:20:54Z
dc.date.available 2011-12-20T16:20:54Z
dc.date.issued 2011
dc.identifier.other BJ1475.3 R67 2011
dc.identifier.uri http://library2.smu.ca/xmlui/handle/01/23748
dc.description 277 leaves : ill., maps ; 29 cm. en_CA
dc.description Includes abstract.
dc.description Includes bibliographical references (leaves 260-277).
dc.description.abstract This dissertation challenges the taken-for-granted status of humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontières. I will problematize humanitarianism and argue that the continued existence of humanitarian organizations relies upon a certain historical construction of humanitarianism: one in which humanitarianism has always existed and is universally applicable. In my experience working with humanitarian organizations, I have observed that these organizations are selective of the type of suffering that receives attention. Empirical studies of humanitarianism note that the suffering it purports to alleviate is increasing although aid is now highly organized, funded, and globalized. These observations inform the key question of my problematization: what purpose does the humanitarian organization serve? I will explore this question through a Foucauldian genealogy of humanitarianism. Genealogy is a method of historical inquiry that decenters common sense by looking for points of intersection and change that give rise to new historical trajectories. I have bounded this search within the European colonial era (18th to 20th century) and the Biafra War of 1967-1970. Not only do these periods expose the contingent and constructed nature of humanitarianism, but they are coincident with significant points in the histories of the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontières. The Red Cross emerged during the colonial period while Medecins Sans Frontières arrived in the aftermath of the Biafran war and the height of African decolonization. The role of colonialism in the humanitarian organization will be made apparent, and will facilitate an interpretation of the results of my genealogical inquiry using postcolonial theory. I found that the humanitarianism discourse serves a function in establishing subjects such as helper and victim, guiding these subjects' behaviours, and creating a hierarchical relationship between them. This illustrates that humanitarianism is not an exclusively caring practice but rather it is a discourse that dominates and regulates populations through discipline. Thus, my contribution to organization studies will be the re-reading of humanitarianism to show that humanitarian organizations serve as global disciplinary institutions. en_CA
dc.language.iso en en_CA
dc.publisher Halifax, N.S. : Saint Mary's University en_CA
dc.subject.lcc BJ1475.3
dc.subject.lcsh International Committee of the Red Cross
dc.subject.lcsh Médecins sans frontières (Association)
dc.subject.lcsh Humanitarianism -- Political aspects
dc.subject.lcsh Postcolonialism
dc.subject.lcsh Imperialism
dc.title Problematizing crisis : re-reading humanitarianism as postcolonial organizing en_CA
dc.type Text en_CA
thesis.degree.name Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration (Management)
thesis.degree.level Doctoral
thesis.degree.discipline Management
thesis.degree.grantor Saint Mary's University (Halifax, N.S.)


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