The New Humanitarianism

Special Topics in Cultural Anthropology/Area Studies
Course Number: 
200 Wheeler
Ong, A
TuTh 11 - 12:30 pm

By 'humanitarianism' we mean intervention into problems of living at home and abroad.

Humanitarian interventions have veered between the points of view of the state, of the universe, and of the individual.  In the quest to make the world a better place, the various practices, things, and ideals we deploy constitute us as humans.  Drawing mainly on ethnographic cases from Asia, this course considers shifting notions of humanitarianism -- as a form of governance, altruism, and security -- for the 'common good.' The new humanitarianism is fundamentally about the management and distribution of care and capacity -- informed by theories of governing, altruism, and ethics -- and recognizing limits in the Anthropocene.  


Part I - 'The Government of Well-Being & Otherness,' explores humanitarianism as a non-government governance of well-being.  Modern interventions into life promote the capacity and care of subjects thereby enhancing their productivity as citizens. 

Part 2 - 'Transnational Virtue: Altruism, Affects, & Ethics' explores humanitarianism as first-world altruistic ideals to 'do good' in the world, especially in poor countries. We consider an array of N-S interventions -- social entrepreneurship, global health, financial aid, and volunteer tourism -- that in seeking to reduce the misery index becomes inseparable from sentiments of first world virtue and identity.

Part 3 - 'Humanity at Stake,' explores how new technology and radical uncertainty pose the human as irreducibly biological.  We consider humanitarianism as 'a politics of life' attentive to bio-threats -- manmade and natural --  in the age of the Anthropogenic.



Required Texts:

*A. Ong, Buddha is Hiding

*The New Humanitarianism Reader (Available at Copy Central on Bancroft Ave.)