Research project

Violence against aid workers - Ethics of care - Domestic care

This report explores the question of the safety of humanitarian personnel in a new intellectual perspective. It seeks to show that hostility to humanitarian actors is not a phenomenon unrelated to humanitarian action, which should be dealt separately in a technical manner. Rather it arises from a relationship of domination which manifests itself on a global scale in the North-South relations and which interferes in the relationships between humanitarian actors and local populations. It is then necessary to understand those mechanisms rather than situating the roots of the threat in the other and relying on urban fortification and spatial segregation. To put it another way: instead of seeing insecurity as a product of a deficit of one or another, we should rather study the relationship that link one to the other.

By combining feminist theories of care and Jock Young’s critical criminology, this study explores the uneven and paradoxical relationships – often hidden and wishfully concealed – between humanitarian and local actors. The study starts from a specific social situation, namely the mutual support and care between the humanitarians and their housekeeper, as a way to make visible dimensions of power and domination which fuel tensions and frustrations. It highlights the intolerable nature of this dominant situation for each of the parties. A processus of othering then takes place which is accompanied by an essentialization and denigration of the other. Ultimately, the research results raise the question of whether the solution to the problem of insecurity for humanitarian workers would not primarily be to resolve forms of income inequality and status inequality which generate this problem.