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South Asian Humanitarianism in Armed Conflicts, 1899-1947

Applicant Fischer-Tiné Harald
Number 144483
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Professur für Technikgeschichte D-GESS ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline General history (without pre-and early history)
Start/End 01.01.2013 - 31.12.2015
Approved amount 288'030.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
General history (without pre-and early history)
Swiss history

Keywords (8)

History of South Asia; Global History; Internationalism; Humanitarianism; World Wars; Communalism; Armed Conflicts; Red Cross

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

The research project examines the role of South Asian individuals and groups in humanitarian relief work during armed conflicts in the 19th-20th centuries. In this period, influenced by the changing nature of warfare, notions of benevolence and compassion, and religious and strategic agendas, different humanitarian initiatives to help wounded soldiers and civilian victims of warfare and civil strife were founded in Europe and North America. With the growth of international organizations and institutions, a humanitarian global community emerged that operated within national, transnational and international arenas.

This project focuses on humanitarian help that originated from British India. In the early 20th century, different organizations became prominent in providing relief for victims in international crises and domestic conflicts. The project studies two interrelated developments: one, an institutional and social history of local and national political and religious-cultural associations, including women’s groups. Some of them were the Indian National Congress (INC), the Hindu nationalist volunteer organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Social Service League, the Servants of India Society, the All-India Women Conference and the Arya Samaj. Two, the project analyzes the discourses and practices of the South Asian branches of international civil society organizations, which had more or less, a Protestant Christian background. The prominent amongst them were the Indian Red Cross, the Indian St John Ambulance, the Salvation Army and the Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A).

The role of these associations is studied through five different case-studies: 1) Indian Ambulance Corps in the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902) and Bambatha Rebellion (1906); 2) Indian relief work in the First World War; 3) Humanitarian initiatives in the Interwar Period in international and communal conflicts in South Asia; 4) Indian humanitarian aid in the Second World War; 5) Help during the Partition.

In order to explore the complex aims, objectives and strategies of different organizations formed in and outside of India, the foremost question is of the nature of the beneficiary, that is, who provided relief to whom. An equally important question is of the motivation that ranged from forging transnational associations to religious fraternity-help, and not least, certain incipient ideas of ‘third-world’ development. The main cluster of analytical themes that this project will deal with, therefore, consists of race, imperialism, gender, class and the mobility of ideas, knowledges and practices.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
‚We must send a gift worthy of India and the Congress!’ War and political humanitarianism in late colonial South Asia‘
Framke Maria (2017), ‚We must send a gift worthy of India and the Congress!’ War and political humanitarianism in late colonial South Asia‘, in Modern Asian Studies, 51(6), 1969-1998.
‚Political Humanitarianism in the 1930s: Indian Aid for Republican Spain‘
Framke Maria (2016), ‚Political Humanitarianism in the 1930s: Indian Aid for Republican Spain‘, in European Review of History, 23(1-2), 63-81.
Themenschwerpunkt ‚Humanitarismus‘ (Einleitung)
Framke Maria, Glasman Joel (2015), Themenschwerpunkt ‚Humanitarismus‘ (Einleitung), in WerkstattGeschichte, 68.
Political humanitarianism in the 1930s: Indian aid for Republican Spain
Framke Maria, Political humanitarianism in the 1930s: Indian aid for Republican Spain, in European Review of History , 23(2).

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi India (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte, Universität Mainz Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Genf Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Department of History, University of Toronto Canada (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Historisches Institut, Universität Bern Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Workshop „Trans-imperial cooperation and transfers in the age of colonial globalization: Towards a triangular history of colonialism?“ Talk given at a conference „‘We fight for the liberation of humanity’: Exploring the entangled web of Indian Anti-colonialism, (humanitarian) internationalism and Pan-Asian solidarity in the 1930s and 1940s“ 22.03.2018 Erfurt, Germany Framke Maria;
“, Konferenz „In global transit: Jewish migrants from Hitler’s Europe in Asia, Africa, and beyond“ Talk given at a conference „India a safe haven for Jewish refugees? Exploring the entangled web of Indian anti-fascism, anti-colonialism and humanitarian solidarity in the interwar period“ 14.02.2018 Kokata, India Framke Maria;
Ko-Organisatorin ICAS 2017 Talk given at a conference Panel „War and Humanitarianism in Asia, c. 1900-1950“, 20.07.2017 Chiang Mai, China Fischer-Tiné Harald; Framke Maria;
Konferenz „Gender & Humanitarianism: (Dis-)Empowering Women and Men in the Twentieth Century“, IEG Mainz Talk given at a conference Vortrag „Non-Governmental Relief Organizations in Postcolonial India and Pakistan: Redrawing the Boundaries of Gender in Terms of Femininity and Masculinity?“ 29.06.2017 Mainz, Germany Framke Maria;
Ko-Organisation, 51. Deutscher Historikertag Talk given at a conference „Religiöser Humanitarismus im Zeitalter des Säkularismus: Hilfe für Kriegsgefangene und zivile Opfer von Konflikten nach 1945“ 20.09.2016 Hambrug, Germany Framke Maria;
Konferenz „Empire and Humanitarianism“ Talk given at a conference „‘Fine work done’?: Humanitarian relief by non-state actors and organizations during the Partition of the Indian subcontinent, 1947-1949“ 13.06.2016 Exeter, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Framke Maria;
European Social Science History Conference Talk given at a conference „‘India cannot stand aloof!’: Exploring the entangled web of Indian anti-fascism, anti-colonialism and humanitarian solidarity in the interwar period“ 30.03.2016 Valencia, Spain Framke Maria;
Symposium ‘Connecting with the Past – the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement in Critical Historical Perspective’ Talk given at a conference ‘From imperial to political humanitarianism: Indian nationalist aid initiatives, 1914-45’ 16.09.2015 Genf, Switzerland Framke Maria;
Kolloquium „Globalgeschichte – Internationale Geschichte – Mikrogeschichte“ Talk given at a conference „Politischer Humanitarismus in den 1930er Jahren: Indische Hilfe für die Spanische Republik während des Bürgerkrieges“ 04.06.2015 Erfurt, Germany Framke Maria;
Forschungskolloquium Geschichte Universität Bern Individual talk ‘Kolonialer Humanitarismus in den 1930er Jahren: Indische Hilfe für die Spanische Republik während des Bürgerkrieges’ 22.04.2015 Bern, Switzerland Framke Maria;
Social History Society Annual Conference, Portsmouth University Talk given at a conference ‘Non-state humanitarian relief during World War II: The Indian Burma refugees’ 31.03.2015 Portsmouth , Great Britain and Northern Ireland Framke Maria;
23rd European Conference on South Asian Studies Individual talk ‘‘Our proud privilege to nurse Indian soldiers back to health!’: Indian Ambulance Corps in WWI’. 23.07.2014 Zürich, Switzerland Framke Maria;
42th Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison Talk given at a conference 'A steady stream of gifts': Indian humanitarian relief work in the First World War’ 17.10.2013 Madison, WI, United States of America Framke Maria;
Workshop ‘Non-State Humanitarianism. From colonialism to Human rights’, National University of Ireland Galway Talk given at a conference ‘Colonial humanitarianism: Debates and activities in India during the 1930s’, 20.06.2013 Galway, Ireland Framke Maria;
BASAS Annual Conference 2013 Talk given at a conference ‘India as a humanitarian actor: newbie or old hand?’ 03.04.2013 Leeds, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Framke Maria;


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
165707 Framing ‘the Indian Famine’ and Its Victims, 1905-1951 01.04.2016 Project funding

Abstract

The research project examines South Asian humanitarian relief work in armed conflicts between the late 19th and first half of the 20th century. Influenced by the changing nature of warfare, notions of benevolence and compassion, and religious and strategic agendas, different humanitarian initiatives to help wounded soldiers and civilian victims of warfare and civil strife were founded in the second half of the 19th century. The broader context of these measures was a growth of international organizations and institutions. Such organizations helped the emergence of a global humanitarian community which both operated within and transcended the institutional, territorial and ideological boundaries created on national and imperial bases. Within this international and transnational frame, the project focuses at humanitarian help that originated from British India. In the first half of the 20th century, a variety of organizations became prominent in providing relief for victims in international crises and domestic conflicts. Therefore, the project studies two interrelated developments: one, an institutional and social history of local and national political and religious-cultural associations, including women’s groups, that were either non-sectarian or belonged to the Hindu tradition; some of them were the Indian National Congress (INC), the Hindu nationalist volunteer organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Social Service League, the Servants of India Society, the All-India Women Conference and the Arya Samaj. Two, the project analyzes the discourses and practices of the South Asian branches of international civil society organizations, which had a more or less Protestant Christian background. The prominent amongst them were the Indian Red Cross, the Indian St John Ambulance, the Salvation Army and the Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A). While discourses of ‘nationalism’ constituted a common thread amongst these organizations, changing points of reference to provide humanitarian relief - from the perspective of empire to the concurrent developments of internationalism and communalism - are conspicuously visible. In order to link the global and the local, the project analyzes the transfer of ‘western’ discourses and practices to Indian contexts and their appropriation by Indian actors. At the same time, it is imperative to critique and ultimately overcome any simplistic model of ‘diffusion’ of ideas from the West and treating India just as a passive receiving society. The project proposes to do so by closely following the ways of encounters of travelling ‘global’ ideas and models and the ways they interacted with the local traditions and practices. In the history of humanitarianism in British India and Indian humanitarian initiatives abroad, complex networks of agency, locally specific appropriations, and strategic modifications were crucial. A substantial body of work exists on organizations and movements like the Red Cross, which is regarded as a truly international association; the historiography on humanitarianism is unfortunately sparse in exploring humanitarian help in armed conflicts that was coming from the ‘third world’. In addition, existing research on international organizations has often neglected the orientation and work of their non-‘Western’ branches. Shifting the focus to humanitarian initiatives which were pre-dominantly founded and run by South Asians, the project not only addresses these lacunae in the existing historiography by adding a new regional perspective to the global history of humanitarianism. By exploring tensions between diverse political and national interests, religious motivations, and contested identities in the period of imperial globalization, it also promises to contribute to rethinking the nature of global humanitarianism as we know it today.
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