This course surveys the history of humanitarian agencies from their foundations to the present times. It addresses various countries, governmental and non-governmental campaigns, the nature and extent of political support amongst giving and receiving countries, techniques of propaganda, and changing ethics of humanitarian interventions. It keeps a particular attention to the Canadian dimension of each question. Private (Non-Governmental Organizations) and public agencies are examined. This exploration of past traditions helps to put current problems and challenges in perspective.
Lectures and course readings provide an opportunity to reflect on important concepts (universality, neutrality, charity, altruism, gift), and on relevant political and social theories. Class workshops and writing assignments will provide an initiation to the analysis of documents produced by humanitarian agencies, their sponsors and their recipients. The course introduces the major writers on the topic (Hutchinson, Black, Buchanan, Moorehead).
The course attracts students from many disciplines and many parts of the world. The theme is at the intersection of many programs at Carleton, on human rights, development, social work, international relations. It also combines a history of ideas, international relations, religion, colonial and post-colonial relations and “transnational” phenomena. Please note that this is a third year course and that students should have had at least one course in history that would have acquainted them to the method of the field and some basic knowledge in one of its fields. If you have any concern about these, or any equivalent training, please don’t hesitate to contact the instructor.
The lectures are organized chronologically, covering the missionary endeavors and anti slavery movements of the seventeenth century, the relief of prisoners and soldiers which culminated in the creation of the Red Cross in the mid nineteenth century, the universal institutions for the relief of children, refugees, and enemy civilians, such as Save the Children, in the early twentieth century. More recent movements include the protection of political prisoners, and of the environment. The more recent institutions “without borders” will be examined, as well as the question of the current political leverage of NGOs.
Students will work at a research paper (15 pages) on one historical problem chosen with the help of the instructor. Their proposal and draft will be discussed in groups and plenary sessions in class. There is a final examination.
There is no textbook, but a course pack. The course relies largely on resources posted on Web-CT.