The Need to Help: The Domestic Arts of International Humanitarianism
Liisa H. Malkki is Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. She is the author of Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory, and National Cosmology among Hutu Refugees in Tanzania, and the coauthor of Improvising Theory: Process and Temporality in Ethnographic Fieldwork.
Conclusion: The Power of the Mere: Humanitarianism as Domestic Art and Imaginative Politics
2015. "Conclusion: The Power of the Mere: Humanitarianism as Domestic Art and Imaginative Politics", The Need to Help: The Domestic Arts of International Humanitarianism, Liisa H. Malkki
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Drawing the wide arc of the key themes of the book, this chapter moves these themes to center stage in relation to the concept of “the mere”—the often invisible category of things, beings, and ideas that is (when noticed) regarded as trivial, unimportant, ineffective, expendable, supplemental, and even embarrassing. The Aid Bunny and Trauma Teddy were central to the analytical development of the concept of the mere. The aged and often abjectly lonely knitters of these “humanitarian gifts”—no longer “productive members of society,” thus “useless”—also dwelt in the realm of the mere. Humanitarian aid and the need to help, too, have often been belittled as apolitical, mere window dressing, in relation to “real politics” and the realpolitik of corporate and imperial interests. Such reductive understandings of “the political” and “the real” disable more nuanced, powerful conceptual possibilities. The book develops a more anthropological and multi-dimensional concept, that of “imaginative politics.”