Pol003
Human, all too human: locating humanity in humanitarianism, charity, human rights activism in Eastern Europe

Convenors:
Carna Brkovic (University of Goettingen)
David Henig (University of Kent)
Discussant:
Don Kalb
Stream:
History, politics and urban studies
Location:
A106
Start time:
24 June, 2015 at 10:30
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

We invite contributors to trace ethnographically the notions of humanity/humanness, and the moral registers they entail, in humanitarianism, charity, or human rights activism, to locate the zones of encounters, contests or mediation between them across different scales/contexts in Eastern Europe.

Long abstract:

This panel explores the political positionings and uses of the concepts of 'humanity' and 'humanness' in Eastern Europe. These concepts have proliferated over the past quarter of century since the disintegration of the socialist ecumene across the region with the rise of the humanitarian agendas. Yet only little has been ethnographically researched about how 'humanity' is defined and used on different scales in Eastern European contexts. Humanity/humanness constitute a part of an everyday routine and vernacular forms of moral imagination (e.g. merhamet, or ńćovjekoljublje in BiH). They can also be located in the vocabularies and practices of the international humanitarian aid 'industry', and in the attempts to push the state to adopt human rights laws. The mushroomed humanitarian workers, volunteers in religious charities, human rights activists, and a wide array of other actors engaged in doing the good often claim that fellow-humans constitute the 'target' of their activities rather than categorical targets such as refugees, religious groups, citizens. Yet such claims are not innocent. The (seemingly apolitical) concept of humanity can be seen as a 'site of governance' where different ideas about humanity 'find concrete expression in the governing work that operationalizes those ideas to produce order, prosperity, and security' (Ticktin and Feldman 2010). In this panel we invite contributors to trace ethnographically the multiple notions of humanity/humanness, and the moral registers they entail, in order to locate the zones of encounters, contests or mediation between them across different scales and contexts in Eastern Europe.