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The Good ProjectHumanitarian Relief NGOs and the Fragmentation of Reason$
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Monika Krause

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226131221

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226131535.001.0001

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The History of Humanitarian Authority and the Divisions of the Humanitarian Field

The History of Humanitarian Authority and the Divisions of the Humanitarian Field

Chapter:
(p.92) Four The History of Humanitarian Authority and the Divisions of the Humanitarian Field
Source:
The Good Project
Author(s):

Monika Krause

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226131535.003.0005

This chapter describes the symbolic divisions and differences within the field of humanitarian relief NGOs. In developing their distinctive position on questions of humanitarian policy, agencies draw on different intellectual and national histories, but diversity is also shaped by competition for a specific type of symbolic capital: humanitarian authority. While some field approaches following the work of Bourdieu posit a two-fold division between economic and cultural capital, this chapter maps organizations along the dimensions of field-specific capital, on the one hand, and different kinds of capital dependent on other fields on the other hand. The field of humanitarian relief NGOs has its origins in a move that combined the authority of the suffering produced by war with the authority of states, and the authority of the medical profession. When the pioneering position of the International Red Cross was challenged on its own terms by Doctors without Borders (MSF) in 1968, the contestation around humanitarian authority that defines the field became possible.

Keywords:   humanitarian relief, field-specific capital, symbolic capital, NGOs, humanitarian authority, MSF, International Red Cross, symbolic divisions, Bourdieu

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