Critical humanitarianism and the politics of aid work with refugees

In our first episode of this series in collaboration with The New Context, Professors Everita Silina and Peter Hoffman discuss critical approaches to humanitarianism and forced displacement. Starting from Hoffman’s latest book, Humanitarianism, War, and Politics: Solferino to Syria and Beyond, they examine the value of critical humanitarianism in understanding the dynamics related to aid work with refugees and other crisis-affected people. Hoffman presents his candid perspective on the problems inherent in the humanitarian project and calls for establishing a “Humanitarian Anonymous” program, where humanitarians can think about how to reinvent their work and themselves.


Barnett, Michael. 2011 Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Barnett, Michael  and Thomas G. Weiss (eds.). 2008. Humanitarianism in Questions: Politics, Power, and Ethics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Fassin, Didier. 2011. Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2011).

Forsythe, David P. 2005. The Humanitarians: The International Committee of the Red Cross. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harrell Bond, Barbara. 2002. “Can Humanitarian Work with Refugees Be Humane?” Human Rights Quarterly 24, no. 1: 51-85.

Hoffman, Peter J.  and Thomas G. Weiss. 2018. Humanitarianism, War, and Politics: Solferino to Syria and Beyond. Boulder: Rowman & Littlefield.

International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. 2001. The Responsibility to Protect: The Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre.

International Committee of the Red Cross. 2016. People on War: Perspectives from 16 countries. Geneva: ICRC.

Leonard, Stephen T. 1990. Critical Theory in Political Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Redfield, Peter. 2013. Life in Crisis: The Ethical Journey of Doctors without Borders. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rieff, David. 2002. A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis. New York: Simon & Schuster.


Production team: Julia Waldruche De Mont Remy, Mia Marzotto, Michael Castrovilla, Emma Pulido and Emily Perron
Music: original intro/outro music by Pablo Altar; "One World" by Kudsi Ergüner, courtesy of Naxos America, Inc.

Release Date: May 11th 2018