Project

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Beyond Compassion: Gender and Humanitarian Action

English title Beyond Compassion: Gender and Humanitarian Action
Applicant Martin Moruno Dolores
Number 199542
Funding scheme Agora
Research institution Institut Ethique Histoire Humanités - iEH2 Faculté de Médecine Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline General history (without pre-and early history)
Start/End 01.03.2021 - 31.08.2022
Approved amount 201'079.00
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Keywords (5)

Gender History; Science and Technology Studies ; Visual and Material Culture ; History of Emotions; History of humanitarian relief

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Dans une période marquée à la fois par des crises sanitaires et par une résistance croissante face aux inégalités, aux injustices et aux exclusions, l’action humanitaire et le rôle des femmes sont plus que jamais au cœur des questions de société. Ce projet invite un public élargi à examiner l’histoire de l’action humanitaire à la lumière des questions du genre, au travers d’un dialogue entre chercheur.es, acteur.ices de l’humanitaire et de la culture activistes et citoyen.nes engagé.es. Son ambition est de construire ensemble, en s’informant des leçons d’une histoire encore peu connue, une voie vers l’action humanitaire du présent et du futur.
Lay summary

Contenu et objectifs du travail de recherche

L’histoire de l’humanitaire a été dominée par une vision masculine où les femmes ont été fréquemment représentées en tant que figures maternelles. Ce projet mobilise des catégories comme le genre, la classe et l’ethnie afin de déconstruire ces stéréotypes, ainsi que de comprendre l’action des femmes humanitaires au travers des rapports de pouvoir qu’elles ont établis avec leurs collègues masculins et les bénéficiaires de leur aide.     

Afin de partager nos recherches et ouvrir un espace de débat avec un public élargi, nous mettons en œuvre trois modes de participation désignés respectivement pour encourager l’éducation, la délibération et la recherche participative : a) l’organisation d’une exposition en collaboration avec le Musée International de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge, b) la création d’un Humanitari@n_Lab, une plateforme où des spécialistes et des passioné.es de sciences pourront débattre, et c) la création d’un site web où seront publiés des entrées, des podcasts et des vidéos enregistrés lors des activités organisées.   

Contexte scientifique et social du projet de recherche 

Le projet intègre des sources comme des journaux, des lettres, des dessins et des films, des méthodes et des analyses liées à l’histoire de la médecine, l’histoire du genre, l’histoire des émotions, les études sur la culture visuelle et matérielle, ainsi que les études sociales de la science et de la technologie. En faisant écho aux mouvements sociaux revendiquant l’égalité de genre ou dénonçant des discriminations raciales, il ambitionne d’élargir la signification du terme ‘Agora’ en incluant des actrices et des acteurs qui ont été exclu.es de l’espace humanitaire. Dans ce but, il fera de l’histoire un outil au service des citoyen.es pour construire une société plus inclusive et donc, plus démocratique. 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 09.03.2021

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Project partner

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Institut des Etudes Genre, Université de Genève Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Davide Rodogno, Institut de Hautes Etudes Internationales et du Développement (Genève) Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Bertrand Taithe, University of Manchester, Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Rony Brauman, Centre de recherche sur l'action et les savoirs humanitaires (Paris) France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Valérie Gorin, Centre d'enseignement et de recherche en Action Humanitaire de Genève Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Alexandra Calmy, Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Sigiriya Aebischer Perone, Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève/Comité International de la Croix Rouge Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Video/Film The Humanitarian Lab International 2022
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Website Beyond Compassion: Gender and Humanitarian Action International 2021

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
170484 Ces femmes qui ont fait l'humanitaire : une histoire genrée de la compassion de la Guerre Franco-Prusienne à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale 01.09.2017 SNSF Professorships
198901 L'humanitaire vécu : Genre, expériences et savoirs (1853-1945) 01.09.2021 SNSF Professorships
170484 Ces femmes qui ont fait l'humanitaire : une histoire genrée de la compassion de la Guerre Franco-Prusienne à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale 01.09.2017 SNSF Professorships
195224 La bataille émotionnelle des infirmières et marraines de guerre sur le front de l’Yser (1914-1918) 01.10.2021 Doc.Mobility
157289 Emotional Bodies: A workshop on the historical performativity of emotions 01.10.2014 Scientific Conferences
168954 Warriors without Weapons: Humanitarian Action in the Spanish Civil War and the Republican Exile 01.10.2016 Scientific Conferences
187562 Regarding the Pain of Others: What emotions have to do in the history of humanitarian images 01.06.2019 Scientific Exchanges

Abstract

This Agora project seeks to create a common space for dialogue between scholars and a wide audience to disseminate the research results of our ongoing SNSF Professorship project, ‘Those women who performed humanitarian action: a Gendered history of compassion from the Franco-Prussian War to WWII’ and its extension ‘Lived Humanitarianism: Gender, Experiences and Knowledge(s) (1853-1945)’. Considering public engagement essential to constructing scientific knowledge, our objective is to involve a variety of social agents (scholars, museum curators, NGO practitioners, feminist activists, contemporary artists, students and science enthusiasts) in the co-production of historical research. In so doing, our motivation is to increase awareness about the importance of reassessing the past to make societies more democratic through the promotion of gender equality. This is a timely issue, as shown by the rise of social movements and political initiatives in Switzerland and around the world. Our approach is grounded in a Feminist epistemology from which we formulate our research question: what kind of knowledge was produced by the women who assisted the victims of nineteenth and twentieth century wars? In questioning what has been considered as legitimate scientific knowledge, our aim has been to enrich its genealogy with the study of a plurality of health-care practices whose epistemic value remains largely ignored, such as those mobilised by women in the humanitarian field. Our method has been the cross analysis of two types of sources: NGOs’ activity reports and ego-documents; the latter making up for the lack of institutional sources concerning female participation in emergency relief operations. By taking compassion as the driving force behind humanitarian action, our initial hypothesis has been to consider that, in accordance with a sexual division of labour, women translated this feeling into a set of practices relating to care. In spite of its altruistic expression, our preliminary conclusion is that women humanitarians’ compassion became a kind of caring power that allowed them to participate in warfare, albeit performing a role as benevolent mothers or loving angels. This Agora project aims to challenge these stereotypical representations by opening a discussion with society about how to rethink humanitarian compassion from a gender perspective, while also looking at its intersections with class, ethnic and religious differences. Audiences will thereby not only to discover women humanitarians’ actions, but also to navigate through their complex realities in the light of the power relations which shaped their interactions with their female and male colleagues, as well as with the beneficiaries of their aid. To communicate this concept we are implementing three modes of public participation designed to encourage education, deliberation and participatory research respectively: a) the organisation of an exhibition in collaboration with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, to be held in 2022, which will become itinerant afterwards; b) the creation of a Humanitari@n_Lab, a platform for exchange and debate between scholars and science enthusiasts; and c) the development of a website which will publish blog entries, podcasts and video recordings related to a) and b) in order to reach national and international audiences. A scientific network of historians, philosophers and medical professionals will guarantee the quality of these results. This intensive collaborative process is meant to revise the meaning of the word ‘agora’, by placing those female agents who had been historically excluded from public meetings - because they were not recognised as having full citizenship - at the heart of the humanitarian space.
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