Select Page

Humanitarianism in crisis situations


How do anthropological studies on the role of compassion, crisis and kinship in humanitarian work help us to understand the Red Cross family tracing service as a form of governance?

By Alicia Blain, Helen Davis, Alice Harriet Foster, Grace Greenlaw, Peter Kane, Aliyah Kossoff, and Sylvia Pope

Anthropology helps us understand how the family tracing work in the Red Cross, a non-governmental organisation, might in fact be intrinsically political. With the current political climate in the UK, particularly with Brexit, we look at the difficulties the Red Cross could encounter when it must remain politically neutral in the process of family tracing. [Continue reading.]

How anthropological perspectives can improve family tracing and reunification through broadening our understanding of kinship

By Jed Allen, Katy Bek, Eleanor Little, Ellika Livingstone, Olivia O’Brien, and Aisling O’Connor

Current family tracing and reunification services in the UK are based on western ideas about family and relatedness. However, using anthropological perspectives on kinship in other cultures could have the potential to improve the efficacy of these services, potentially reuniting more families and reducing the number of orphaned children. [Continue reading.]


To what extent can neutrality prevail in a state of crisis? 

By Georgia Alexiou, Philippine Dard, Jessica Dawson, Roxane Dougall, Christine Larot, Uschi Lebersorger, Matilda Ransome, Lauren Tunnicliffe

The red cross symbol is ever present in natural disasters, armed conflict and other humanitarian crises across the world. Medical humanitarian NGOs have sought to alleviate suffering based on a niche, biomedical perspective. Neutrality is a fundamental principle of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), yet when placed in states of crisis, humanitarian aid workers must often choose whether to remain neutral or take a political stance in regards to whom they are offering medical support. [Continue reading]

Technologies in crises: Politics of inequality or empowerment?

By Ahad Mustafa, Chloe Prior, Lama Chmayaah, Lauren Howie, Valentina Coló

In the last few decades, technological developments have presented increasing possibilities for humanitarian responses to crisis situations. Although new technologies are largely seen as neutral, and there is a great sense of optimism about what they can enable humanitarian groups to achieve, attention is also due to their potential to threaten the core principles of humanitarianism. Relying on three of the seven fundamental principles conceived by the Red Cross, namely, impartiality, humanity, and neutrality (, 2018), we aim to focus on the social and political effects of new technologies rather than their instrumental use. [Continue reading]


The impact of armed conflict on kinship, identity and family separation

By Lolly Bruce-Jones, Ella Davies Oliveck, Megan Jones, Poppy Luck, Leigh Roberts, and Kizzie Wilson

The following ethnographic examples demonstrate that identity is often threatened and laboriously reasserted after the initial period of crisis, when normalcy has supposedly resumed. Redfield (2005) uses Agamben’s concept of ‘bare life’ to explore the effects of crisis on identity. Agamben, expounding on Foucault’s theory of biopolitics, distinguishes between two modes of existence: bios and zoe. [Continue reading]

How can an anthropological study of kinship within the context of conflict reveal how different families cope with crisis situations?

By Orla Burden, Jasmine Forbes-Lumby, Alasdair Kerr, Tertia Rollason, Cordelia Sears, Charlotte Burton

In order to address this question, we must consider the notion of ‘family’ and how it differs cross-culturally in the face of conflict. Family structures are not universal. When faced with conflict, some families display resilience through a strong and unified approach, ‘while some families are shattered by crisis or persistent stresses’ (Walsh, 1996:1). We shall substantiate this idea through the Ajdukovics’ (1998) case study. This is a study on the impact of the Yugoslav wars within Croatian families over a six-year period. [ontinue reading]


Disaster capitalism: An investigation of the NHS crisis

By Roisin Cogan, Lorna Furminger, Alice Godfrey, Emma Maria Sandberg, Aliaa Ibrahim Mohamed Shaaban

To demonstrate the possibility of anthropological insights to understand humanitarian expertise in crises, we consider this event, as captured in a news headline: ‘NHS faces “humanitarian crisis” as demand rises, British Red Cross warns’ (Campbell et al. 2017). The instability of the NHS demonstrates the occurrence of humanitarian crisis in a developed country such as Britain. It is clear, however, that such a crisis is linked to politics; the NHS is being systematically underfunded because of governmental policies (Stone J. 2017). [Clntinue reading]

Immediate humanitarian concerns and long-term ethnographies

By Chloe Kippax-Chui, Melanie Olivia Ivy Rimmer-Tagoe, Lucy Voak, Iona Francesca Walker

Didier Fassin argues that ‘other avenues’ need to be explored to more fully account for the complexities of humanitarianism projects. We argue that anthropology combined with ethnographic studies can provide the analytical frameworks to do this. Organizations such as MSF take as their objective ‘the saving of individuals’ (2007: 501) who are in crisis. MSF workers and anthropologists such as Redfield argue that the medical gaze ‘discriminates in the name of bodily egalitarianism’ (Redfield, 2013:169) suggesting that ‘vulnerable people’ are the ones who are suffering the most. [Continue reading]