Plenarveranstaltung III / Plenary session III: (Un)intended gender politics of humanitarianism

"The “women powering” of humanitarian aid post 9/11 and the work of imagination"

Sprecherin / Speaker:

Julie Billaud (Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies Genf, Schweiz)

This   presentation   is   concerned   with   the   imaginary   and   immaterial   practices   via   which humanitarianism in post 9/11 Afghanistan has come to define women’s needs and has devised programs to answer them. The argument I make is that Orientalist imaginaries of Muslim women in  need  of  rescue  permeated  the  humanitarian  enterprise  in  Afghanistan.  Such  imaginaries,  in spite of their phantasmagorical nature, have actualized specific humanitarian responses based on liberal  notions  of  self-empowerment.  Their  main  objective  was  less  to  concretely  improve  the situation  of  women,  than  to  bolster  the  idea  of  reconstruction  for  Western  audiences  via carnivalesque performances of radical reversals. I maintain that technologies of the ‘self’ on which programs  aimed  at  increasing  women’s  resilience  are  poisonous  humanitarian  gifts whichoverlook  thevarious  forms  of  structural  inequalities  that  are  responsible  for  triggering crises in the first place and which hide the broader dynamics of abandonment that have marked the history of the West’s engagement with Afghanistan since the 1990s.

Datum: Montag, 30. September 2019


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