The Case for an Ethics of Care in Humanitarianism’s In-between Spaces

Monday 16 October 2017 13:00 to 14:30
Convening Space

Many contemporary refugee-emergencies take place in what may be seen by the humanitarian community as non-traditional humanitarian sites outside camps and in urban areas. Additionally, humanitarian actors are present in situations that are less distinguished by urgency, but where, nevertheless, the humanitarian community plays a crucial role. These less traditional, but more and more common, humanitarian settings are what Cathrine Brun calls humanitarianism’s ‘inbetween spaces’.

In these inbetween spaces – such as long term displacement – humanitarians continue to operate with a humanitarian logic distinguished by emergency, urgency and out of the ordinary measures that to a large degree concerns saving people’s lives (relief) rather than development. The challenges humanitarian workers face, however, are far beyond the humanitarian mandate, its ethical register, principles, laws and guidelines.

In this talk Cathrine Brun reflects on some of humanitarianisms’ ethical blind spots that become particularly prominent in the inbetween spaces of long term displacement. She argues for the inclusion of a feminist ethics of care in order to expose some of the blind spots and set out the principles of an ethics of care for a more interdependent humanitarianism.

About the speaker:

Professor Cathrine Brun is Director of the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP) at Oxford Brookes University. Her research interest concerns forced migration as a result of conflict, the theory and practice of humanitarianism and urbanization with a people-centred approach. Before joining CENDEP in October 2015, she was a professor in geography at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

As a human geographer, she is interested in how, in chronic crises and displacement, the relationships between people and places change due to displacement, with a view to understanding the relationships between displaced and their hosts and notions of housing and home. Her work has also engaged with the ethics and politics of humanitarianism, the experiences and practices of humanitarians, and the unintended consequences of humanitarian categories and labelling practices, particularly in the context of long-term conflict and displacement.

Some recent publications include “Dwelling in the temporary: the involuntary mobility of displaced Georgians in rented accommodation” (Cultural Studies, 2016); “Homemaking in limbo? A conceptual framework” (with Anita H. Fàbos, Refuge2015); “Active waiting and changing hopes. Toward a time perspective on protracted displacement” (Social Analysis, 205); “There is no future in humanitarianism: Emergency, temporality and protracted displacement” (History and Anthropology, 2016).


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