Synopses & Reviews
Media images of people whose lives are destroyed by international and civil conflicts have long engaged our imaginations and emotions. But what happens to these refugees after displacement, and who takes on the responsibility of reconstructing shattered lives? Since the end of the Cold War, patterns of refugee management have changed dramatically, as states look to avoid the legal obligations and costs of asylum. Working for humanitarian agencies in Kenya and Somalia, Jennifer Hyndman determined that in spite of their best efforts, too often the camps in which these agencies operate can offer only a short-term palliative. In Managing Displacement, Hyndman uses unique insider knowledge both to challenge the political and cultural assumptions of current humanitarian practices and to expose the distancing strategies that characterize present operations.
Managing Displacement looks specifically at the powerful organizations that serve refugees -- particularly the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Hyndman provides a close reading of humanitarianism on the ground as she examines the policies and practices of the organization at various levels. She offers constructive criticism of organizations like UNHCR, discerning patterns of "ordering disorder" and "disciplining displacement" in their responses to emergencies.
“Inspirational. Lisa Smirl was one of the first to expose the spatial dimensions of aid and thus open to view a whole new area of critique and research.”
“No humanitarian scholar or aid worker can afford to ignore the political and moral realities with which this pathbreaking work confronts us.”
“Lisa Smirl was one of the most original and brilliant academics working on the global humanitarian order.”
“Spaces of Aid is masterfully researched, theoretically innovative, and analytically sophisticated. It is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding or improving humanitarian interventions.”
“A fascinating and well-written book that unearths an important, but often unseen, part of the humanitarian world. Highly recommended.”
“A groundbreaking work, which introduces a spatial dimension to humanitarian analysis while spanning fields, disciplines, and geographical areas, in order to explore what is going wrong and what might be done about it.”
“Lisa Smirl's remarkable book teaches us that objects and structures of privilege such as the SUV and gated apartment complex contribute to the insecurity perpetuated by the international aid industry. Spaces of Aid provides us with critical insights into everyday aid life in order that we might reflect seriously on our continuing ethical responsibilities and humanitarian interventions. An inspiring read.”
“Lisa Smirl died tragically young in 2013, aged 37. The lecturer in international relations at the University of Sussex made a big impact on the way we think about humanitarian aid. Now friends, colleagues, and fans have brought Smirl’s work together in the book Spaces of Aid in the hope that the debate and reform that she began will continue. The book is a critical examination of the aid landscape, looking at how the built environment of humanitarian staff—from gated communities and hotels to air-conditioned cars and mobile phones—alters power relations between international aid workers and local communities. A book well worth reading.”
Aid workers commonly bemoan that the spaces and experiences of working in 'the field' often sit uneasily with the goals they've signed up to - from visiting project sites in air-conditioned Land Cruisers while the intended beneficiaries walk barefoot through the heat to checking emails from within gated compounds while surrounding communities have no running water.
While such observations might seem intuitive, to date no concerted academic or policy study has dealt with the impact of these factors on theory or policy. Spaces of Aid provides the first book-length analysis of what has colloquially been referred to as 'Aid Land', exploring in depth two high-profile case studies - the Aceh tsunami and Hurricane Katrina - in order to uncover a fascinating history of the material objects that have become an endemic, expected, yet unexamined part of the aid landscape
One of the most common laments of aid workers is that the relatively cushy conditions of working in the field can contrast uncomfortably with their mission goals. Aid workers often visit project sites in air-conditioned Land Cruisers while the intended beneficiaries walk barefoot through the heat. Similarly, workers may check e-mail from within gated compounds while surrounding communities have no electricity or running water. While such observations might seem obvious, no academic study to date has dealt with the impact of these disparities on theory or policy, until now.
In Spaces of Aid, Lisa Smirl brilliantly analyzes two high-profile case studies—the Aceh tsunami and Hurricane Katrina—in order to uncover a fascinating history of the material objects that are an endemic yet unexamined part of the aid landscape. Smirl provides the first book-length exploration of how aid work has gradually become detached from the lives of those it seeks to help.
About the Author
Lisa Smirl (1975-2013) was a lecturer in international relations at the University of Sussex and had extensive experience as a development worker in Rwanda, southeast Europe, and central Asia. She also did further field research in Aceh, Jogyakarta, East Timor, Sri Lanka, and New Orleans.
Table of Contents
Notes to the reader
1. Stories from the field, stories of 'the field': how aid workers experience the space of the field mission
2. Exploring the humanitarian enclave
3. How the built environment shapes humanitarian intervention
4. Building home away from home: post-tsunami Aceh and the single-family house
5. Playing house: rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Katrina