Anno accademico 2023/2024 - Docente: Mara BENADUSI

Risultati di apprendimento attesi

This course is aimed at students interested in analyzing the socio-cultural implications of humanitarian action. At the end of the course, students will be able to:
  1. Understand from an actor-oriented perspective the historical transformations of the “humanitarian reason” under the pressures of war, forced displacement, disasters & climate change, economic and health crises;
  2. Familiarize with the deep lens of ethnography to examine case studies, intervention projects and policy documents from the viewpoints of those displaced and distressed, as well of those who intervene and intermediate in the disbursement of humanitarian aid;
  3. Critically discern the ways in which different actors in the humanitarian sector (e.g. INGOs, NGOs, Human Rights’ Activism organizations, etc.) identify global problems and local imperatives, discussing their “cultural” and “moral” presumptions;
  4. Examine, understand and interpret humanitarian policies and practices that address human rights-violation, post-disaster reconstruction and the refugees’ crisis from a cultural and gender-sensitive perspective;
  5. Identify the unbalance of power - both linked to global and local dynamics - which structures, and eventually hinders, the encounter between target populations, humanitarian institutions and local authorities;
  6. Envision new possible spaces for political and social scientists in humanitarian interventions, inside and outside the current regulatory frames, not only as consultants, administrators, or as direct providers of humanitarian assistance, but also as international witnesses and alternative public voices.

Modalità di svolgimento dell'insegnamento

This is an interactive teaching style course. Classes will consist of seminar meetings, film screenings, individual and collective discussion papers on the assigned reading material, special guests' lectures, and a final written assignment. All students will be expected to actively engage with readings, lectures, and class discussion. Students’ general attendance, consistence, punctuality, and personal contribution to daily debates significantly shape their overall assessment and final grade.

Information for students with diverse abilities and/or with special needs:
As a guarantee of equal opportunities and in compliance with current laws, interested students can ask for a personal interview in order to plan a better way to foster their teaching objectives.  It is also possible to ask the departmental contacts of CInAP (Center for Active and Participatory Integration - Services for Disabilities and/or DSAs).

Prerequisiti richiesti

If students do not have a previous basic knowledge of anthropology, the following book is suggested: Matthew Engelke"Think Like an Anthropologist", Pelican Books, 2017.

Frequenza lezioni

Attendance is mandatory. A maximum of 3 classes can be missed, provided that student emailed me in advance.

Students that cannot attend at all can contact Prof. Benadusi and agree on how to study for the exam.

Contenuti del corso

In recent years, humanitarian interventions have gained a high attention in global politics and Euro-Mediterranean relations. Humanitarian personnel - lawyers, doctors, social workers, activists, etc. - striving for human rights, public health, and the security of civilians in endangered environments are more and more involved in a massive institutional apparatus, with an array of funding mechanisms and transnational intervention logics. Humanitarianism, however, has existed for centuries before formally arising in the first half of the 20th century, and has crossed into various ethical, political, and cultural frontiers and problematics.


This course contributes to the understanding of humanitarian governance, offering an introduction to anthropological theories that analyze the socio-cultural stakes of humanitarian aid. It will focus on the concept of “humanitarianism” to analyze the transformations of the intervention logics and “need-to-help” reasons in the field of international cooperation in response to humanitarian crises at global level, and in the Mediterranean area more specifically.


Students will be asked to read and discuss ethnographic case studies in different regional contexts (from disaster relief to post-war interventions) which focus on diverse fields of humanitarian intervention: migrations and forced displacement, environmental crises and natural disasters, human-rights violation, and the care and housing of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Particular attention will be given to the ways in which different notions of vulnerability, emergency, relief, recovery, justice are mobilized in these fields, both in practices and discourses, in order to consider the fundamental anthropological and power-related implications of humanitarian work.

Testi di riferimento

The course comprises of a group of basic common readings for all (as indicated below). 

Specific reading materials (short papers and book chapters) for the preparation of classes and the writing of students' final paper will be assigned to individuals during the course.

Peter Redfield & Erica BornsteinForces of Compassion. An Introduction to the Anthropology ofHumanitarianismUniversity of New Mexico Press2011pp. 3-30
Didier FassinHumanitarianism as a Politics of Lifein "Public Culture" by Duke University Press2007pp. 499-520
Peter RedfieldHumanitarianismin "a Companion on Moral Anthropology" by D. Fassin (ed)2012pp. 451-467
Mariella PandolfiHumanitarianism and Its Discontentsin "Forces of Compassion" by P. Redfield & E. Bornstein (eds)2011pp. 371-412

Programmazione del corso

 ArgomentiRiferimenti testi
1Introduction: Humanitarianism unpacked
2Global Governance or local imperatives? Humanitarian entanglements
3Theorizing the Humanitarian Encounter
4Humanitarian reasons: Norms, ethics, and politics
5Moral dilemma 1: Human Rights and Gender-Based Violence
6Moral dilemma 2: Trauma and the Psychologization of the victims
7Moral dilemma 3: Political Reconstruction and the Makings of ''Civil Society''
8Moral dilemma 4: Still Vulnerable, yet already Resilient
9Who are the Humanitarians? Humanitarian cultures, self-care practices, and the need to protect
10Looking Up: On the Pitfalls of Post-humanitarian Encounters

Verifica dell'apprendimento

Modalità di verifica dell'apprendimento

Course evaluation will be based on students’ overall participation, seminars facilitation, and a final written paper. Assessment will be based on the following parameters:


Overall participation (25%)

The classes run seminar-style and students are expected to actively participate and demonstrate understanding of the readings. All students must complete the readings on time, and be prepared to discuss and/or present them in class, highlight passages for analysis, and raise questions for debate. Apart from the readings, in class we will discuss newspaper articles, blogs, films and videos. I will upload such material on Teams and students are expected to read/view it and be prepared to participate in the debate/discussion in class.


Facilitation (25%)

At the beginning of the course, students will sign up to function as facilitators for the discussion in 1-2 seminars. They will be called on in the respective class to give a 15΄ comment on the specific readings assigned for that seminar. Try to end your comment with a couple of open-ended questions for the class.


Final Paper (50%)

Each student is expected to present a final discussion paper during the semester. Assessment will be based on the students’ ability to demonstrate critical thinking and elaborate on the course's materials. The paper is comprised of 7-10 pages (double spaced), that will follow a structure provided by the teacher at the end of the course.

Esempi di domande e/o esercizi frequenti

What is the main argument and goal of the seminar/paper I'm attending or reading and preparing for? What evidence is provided by the author/researcher for his/her main argument? Do I consider this argument solid? Why or why not? What is the analytical prism through which the objectives/research questions of the paper/seminar is addressed (key concepts, theories)? What is the anthropological insight gained by these readings and seminars?