Humanitarian governance and ethical cultivation: Médecins sans frontières and the advent of the expert-witness

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Abstract

This article seeks to analyse contemporary humanitarianism as an advanced-liberal formation of global governance. It tracks the emergence in the 1970s of the French humanitarian organisation Médecins sans Frontières and shows that its care for and control of distant victims has been commingled with and dependent upon care for Western selves. The article contends that humanitarianism 'without borders' was the outgrowth of the legitimacy crisis of the medical profession, and that its practice of witnessing has ultimately been a mode of ethical self-cultivation by means of which physicians could fashion themselves as more enlightened personae. It further shows that the recent concern with the detrimental side effects of humanitarian action should be deciphered as the culmination of the practices of the self in which global humanitarianism has been embedded since the 1970s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-63
Number of pages21
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Volume40
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2011

Keywords

  • Advanced liberal government
  • Humanitarianism
  • Médecins sans frontières
  • Practices of the self
  • Testimony
  • Witnessing

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