Empire Of Humanitarianism Analysis

1543 Words7 Pages
Defined as the promotion of human welfare in the Oxford dictionary, humanitarianism, contrary to popular belief, is not a modern practice. According to western literature and Michael Barnett in “Empire of Humanity: A history of Humanitarianism”, the moral idea behind humanitarianism originated in the West in the nineteenth century during the Enlightenment period in Europe and grew exponentially to presently become a global theory and practice. Barnett suggests three ages of humanitarianism; imperial (from the nineteenth century until World War 2), postcolonial (from World War 2 to the end of the Cold War) and liberal (from the end of the Cold War to today) calling the last age “liberal humanitarianism” and tying it to globalization, democracy…show more content…
Yet humanitarianism was not a Western creation and “scholarship has emphasized the importance of charitable gestures in other religions, including for example the tradition of zakat in Islam, one of several ways in which Islamic duty involves assisting others”( A History of the Humanitarian System, western origins and foundations, 2013). Even etymologically and as per Jasmine Moussa in “Ancient origins, modern actors: defining Arabic meanings of humanitarianism”, “the word insānīya (Humanitarianism in English) was popularised during the 1960s through the proliferation of scholarly works on ‘humanism’. This use of the word insānīya crystallised as a reaction to the growing influence of leftist political thought in the Arab region. Islam has had an important impact on the development of the concept of al-insānīya. Just like the English term ‘humanitarianism’, the origins of al-insānīya cannot be dissociated from the concepts of charity, philanthropy and compassion”. Hence, the many etymological and historical roots of the term defy the assumption that humanitarianism has solely Northern origins. ‘Even the humanitarian label has become part of the “archive of knowledge” (following Foucault) produced and reproduced in a…show more content…
By engaging the other half of the globe into humanitarianism we can enrich our understanding of multiple and overlapping modes through which different actors respond to those affected by contexts of forced displacement and reject the contention that this is the only legitimate form of humanitarianism. And reaffirm the importance of local communal obligations in opposition to a Northern-conceived universality. Engagement with the “local” is something which is espoused by many critical Southern scholars who consider a state- and institution-centric approach to reproduce Northern biases and modes of thought. Highlighting humanitarian efforts taking place at the local community and household level, therefore redresses these biases by broadening the scope of inquiry, and by demanding that local “humanitarian” efforts be considered to have the same legitimacy as other modes of humanitarian
Open Document