#EverydayHumanitarianism: Ethics, Affects and Practices


April 14-15, 2016

London School of Economics and Political Science

Convened by Lilie Chouliaraki (LSE) and Lisa Ann Richey (Roskilde University, Denmark)

Conference details:

*Follow us on twitter @celebnorthsouth as we tweet about the conference using #everydayhumanitarianism

When: April 14-15

Where: New Academic Building, Lincolns Inn Fields, London School of Economics and Political Science

Opening sessions: Thursday April 14th: Lower Ground Floor, Wolfson Theatre

Parallel sessions on Friday April 15th: Thai Theatre

If you have any questions about the conference, write to Lisa Ann Richey, richey@ruc.dk or Lilie Chouliaraki, L.Chouliaraki@lse.ac.uk

If you wish to register for the conference, please contact Alexandra Budabin, abudabin1@udayton.edu

Please notice that the conference is closed for paper proposals.

Confirmed keynote speakers: Craig Calhoun and Miriam Ticktin

Professor Craig Calhoun is Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author of numerous books including Nations Matter: Citizenship, Solidarity, and the Cosmopolitan Dream, Critical Social Theory, Neither Gods Nor Emperors, and most recently The Roots of Radicalism (University of Chicago Press, 2012).

Miriam Ticktin is Professor of Anthropology and Co-Director of Zolberg Center on Global Migration at The New School for Social Research. She is author of Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France (2011), and co-editor of the journal Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development.


In this ‘post-humanitarian’ age, solidarity is driven by converging logics of consumption and utilitarianism where doing good for others is about mundane micro-practices that aim at personal gratification, such as the click of the mouse or an e-signature. At the same time, moral universals and political questions of justice and equality may fade into the background or become treated as irrelevant. What are the everyday discourses and practices of humanitarianism today, its affects and their consequences? We are convening this international conference to explore this everyday humanitarianism and its ethics, affects, and practices by engaging new and ongoing scholarship in a number of fields (for example, studies of humanitarian interventions, disaster relief, charity, remittances, philanthropy, development aid, communications, and CSR). We encourage papers from scholars in the social sciences, humanities, arts and applied fields that use empirical studies or engaged theory to address broad research questions falling along the following tracks:

TRACK I: Professionalisation — The Politics and Ethics of Humanitarianism

 Humanitarianism is being conceptually debated, understood, and reworked through a large and diverse academic literature (see for example the books by Barnett 2011; Fassin 2012; Calhoun 2008). International relations scholars use “humanitarianism” with a specific historical reference to the 1864 Geneva Convention’s recognition in international law of humanitarian principles to govern the moral practice of war. Yet, as it has been suggested, intervention in the domestic affairs within states on the grounds of a shared humanity serves to support the interests of powerful elites and undermine the normative basis of human rights on which this intervention is predicated. Which conceptual and analytical tools do we need to describe and critique the complex power relations of contemporary humanitarianism? Which different forms of transnational ethics do they call forth? How can we begin to theorize the continuities and ruptures that the exercise of power in humanitarian practice brings about in everyday humanitarianism?

  • Victims and Victors
  • Power in Discourses and Practices
  • Organizing, Agenda-setting and Gatekeeping
  • Cosmopolitanism and Human Rights
  • Gender, Race and Humanity


TRACK 2: Commodification — The Humanitarian Marketplace

 Today, we enjoy a marketplace for the support of humanitarian causes linking North and South. Consumers can make ‘ethical’ purchases that deliver AIDS drugs through the RED campaign, play vocabulary games that deliver rice to the hungry through the UN World Food Program or launch a cartoon superhero to Africa and donate a computer to an African child through General Mills “Win One Give One” campaign. These acts may strike some as empty gestures that fulfill a need to ‘do something,’ by buying a product or playing a game, but fail to address humanitarian challenges. Yet, for others, this marketplace addresses the real need for humanitarian causes in various guises to meet the demands of global and local audiences. How is humanity commodified in the contemporary humanitarian landscape? How can we begin to understand the tensions and consequences of such practices in the fields of emergency aid and development? What are its implications for the western publics that are invited to legitimize and enact them?

  • Philanthropy
  • Brand Aid
  • Celebrity Endorsement
  • Micro-Finance
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

TRACK 3: Technologisation — Mediatization, Spectacle and the Politics of Pity

Born out of the moral universalism of the Enlightenment, this view of politics as pity has established the imperative to act on vulnerable others as the dominant moral order of modernity. Yet, at the same time, it has brought about an irresolvable paradox of representation: on the one hand, pity derives its force from the heartbreaking spectacles of human suffering, which are made available for all to witness as potential benefactors; on the other hand, by virtue of the gap between zones of vulnerability and Western publics, these spectacles of suffering simultaneously separate those who watch at a distance from those who act on the spot (Chouliaraki 2011). How do media and communication technologies seek to close this gap? What are the possibilities and limitations of digital media ecologies? What is the work of representation in establishing or disrupting connections? And how could technology recuperate agency on behalf of distant spectators?

  • Discourses and Practices of Solidarity
  • Performances of Humanitarianism
  • Mediatization
  • Talking about Race and Acting on Racism
  • Media Forms and Meaningful Spectacles