Introduction: Need, Imagination, and the Care of the Self
A great deal has been written about humanitarianism in relation to contemporary global politics. While important, this literature tends to explore the effects of aid on “sufferers” in the global South to the exclusion of closely examining the intimate, complex motivations and imaginative subjectivities of aid workers themselves. Based on fine-grained ethnographic interviews with Finnish Red Cross nurses and doctors who are posted abroad by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the chapter explores “the need to help.” While there is no doubt that “need” (want and suffering brought on by famine, war, genocide, and other calamities) exists around the world, this book shows that the “helpers” are often motivated to do aid work by their own, very real and pressing needs and neediness. The chapter presents the theoretical arc of the book through the use of three lenses: need, imagination, and the care of the self.