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.
Figurations of the Human: Children, Humanity, and the Infantilization of Peace
Why are children’s images everywhere in evidence in the representational conventions of imagining international community and humanitarian concern, human need and human virtue? What do they depend upon for their imaginative and political efficacy? Children consistently appear in five registers: as embodiments of a basic human goodness, as sufferers, as seers of truth, as ambassadors of peace, and as embodiments of the future. These registers depend on each other for their affective and ritual power, and catalyze many practices including humanitarian fundraising, sponsoring children, and knitting humanitarian “gifts.” The “impossible situations” faced by the Red Cross workers also frequently arose from their efforts to treat children in disasters. One nurse faced her critical impasse, her limit experience, when she witnessed many children’s deaths in a camp within a short time. Another was unable to forget monitoring one infant’s death so that two others could live. There were many such cases.