On the political implications of innocence, humanitarianism and the new political imaginary of equality

The discourse of innocence and purity, the visual tropes of traumatized children and mothers dominate the humanitarian and public engagement with the issue of migration and refugees. In this episode, Miriam Ticktin, the chair of Anthropology at the New School, discusses political implications of using the concept of innocence as a moral compass to order our responses to refugee “crises” and other instances of mass human suffering. She traces the post-1968 depoliticization of  humanitarianism and its offer of innocent others as safe, (politically) untarnished moral subjects. The language of innocence creates and reproduces the hierarchies that are foundational of modern humanitarian structures, the ‘armed love.’ Ticktin invites us to abandon such vocabularies and technologies that create new systems of categorization, to move beyond humanitarianism itself and seek new political possibilities that imagine true equality.    



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Ticktin, Miriam. 2016. “Thinking Beyond Humanitarian Borders.” Social Research: An International Quarterly 83(2), 255-271. Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved January 19, 2019, from Project MUSE database.

Ticktin, Miriam. 2011a. Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Production team: Mia Marzotto, Julia W. De MontRemy, Zahra Mustamand, Everita Silina
Music: original music by Pablo Altar (Intro/Outro); “extract of an improvisation” by Pablo Altar (Music Break)

Recorded in May 2018

Release Date: January 2019