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January 23: Critiquing Humanitarianism

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ANTH 3330
Christianne Stephens

Should we pay organ donors? Why don't we pay? • Potential for exploitation of donor ◦ Everyone has a price • Inequitable access for organ transplant ◦ Allocation by ability to pay rather than need, time on list, etc ◦ Creates inequity; whoever pays gets the kideny, riskier for the poor • Undermines altruistic voluntary effort ◦ in Canada we recognize an emphasis in organ donation • Sales fosters commodification of the human body • Markets may promote stealing and killing for organs • Reduced incentives by governments to develop cadaveric organ donation programs The Debate - should we legalize the sale of kidneys? • Paid donation exploits the donor and diminishes his or her autonomy • Most paid living donor programs involve "middle men" who have major incentives to exploit the donor • Most paid living donor programs are in a closed setting of exploitation not in an open supervised program with proper audit and care of the donor before and after the operation ◦ a lot of donors have compromised health after donation, end up being worse off than to begin with What can be done? • Under what conditions can organ transplantations be just, fair, ethical, equitable? • Depends on contract law, social/power relationships, trust • National laws • International guidelines to spell out right of donors (living and the dead) • Recipients need a reasonably fair and equitable health system • Democratic state in which human rights are guaranteed Summary • serious global health problem • global flow from third world to first world • organ trafficking provides a stark illustration of structural violence • major changes to national and international law and conceptualization, recognition of human rights needs to occur to end the inequities inherent in the organ trade Critiquing Humanitarianism • Humanitarianism --> an altruistic enterprise • Growth of humanitarianism agnecies in the last fifty years;  advanced an agenda for improving the world to protect human rights and human dignity in the aftermath of conflict or disaster • provide food, medical care, and short-term shelter • also help victims re-establish themsevles socially and economically with everything from psychosocial assistance and peace-building seminars to microcredit and business development courses • Humanitarianism thus presents itself as an apolitical regime of care, one concerned with not only keeping people from dying but making them live ◦ something that comes from the spirit, ethical/moral perspective of care for your fellow human being, but it's framed as being apolitical • Recent critiques of humanitiarianism (altruistic or nefarious?) • Critics such as Barnett and Calhoun argue that aid is not a charitable gift but the continuation of politics by other means  • Fassin and Pandolfi argues that the pretext of protecting individual human rights allows first-world states to override the principle of national sovereignty which undergirded the international system from WWII until the end of the Cold War • Also allows first-world states to invovle themselves in the politics of third-world state • MichaelAgier identifies some forms of humanitarianism as "the left hand of empire," the use of NGOs and intra-governmental agencies for neo-imperialist military action • humanitarianism aid supposedly is seen by some as reducing so-called beneficiaries to "bare life", stripping them of their individuality, their social statuses, and their capacities for political action • humanitarianism is thus presented as a regime of violence as well as care, seeking not just to keep people from dying but to make them live in particular ways as dominated political subjects • MichaelAgier has referred to some forms of humanitarianism as "totalitarianism" • is in secret solidarity with the police order, and is a powerful and enduring apparatus that embodies the Western world's desire to control the Third World Anthropology of Humanitarianism • an uncomfortable topic for anthropology • compassion and empathy key values claimed by anthropologists in their representations of  human cultures • make ethical and political claims in relation to human suffering, the need to protect the wellbeing of specified others • at the same time, committed to specificity of experience and uncomfortable w making general claims of humanity (cultural relativism) • Differing opinions on "doing good" ◦ Critique of humanitarianism actions versus endorsement ◦ Discipline's tense relations w development and human rights • Anthropological interest in humanitarianism ◦ 1985 RoyalAnthropological Institute Issue ofAnthropology Today ◦ Report surveying work of disasters since the founding of the International Disaster Institute (1979) ◦ New few decades saw research on various topics: famine, displacement, social rupture, etc ▪ Media representations, aid responses ▪ Global phenomena / globalization, NGOs • Emergence of applied anthropology
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