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Aidland in South Asia: humanitarian crisis and the contours of the global aid industry in the long 1970s.

  • Academic Journal
  • European Review of History; Jun2022, Vol. 29 Issue 3, p499-519, 21p
  • This article uses the experiences of expatriate aid workers in South Asia to examine the contours of the global aid industry in the long 1970s. It begins by outlining the impact of the crisis on the aid sector, before using case studies of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from three Anglophone states – Britain, Canada (Québec excepted) and Ireland – to examine the spaces of social experience, spaces of knowledge circulation and imagined spaces of belonging and solidarity in which ideas of aid-giving were made. The article is framed through a concept that ethnographers call 'Aidland': the mix of volunteers, experts and aid professionals that make up the aid community. Taking this model as its starting point, the article makes three claims about the aid community that emerged in South Asia and what its story tells us about transnational activism in the long 1970s. The first is to see this as a moment of acceleration for the sector, in which its activities radically diversified while simultaneously carrying with them the baggage of what had come before. Second, and related, it argues that gwhile there were certain characteristics that were common to aid workers in every environment, we should be careful not to lose sight of the specific contextual factors and points of reference on which responses to humanitarian crises were based. Understanding that complexity, and its consequences, provides us with the basis for the final claim put forward here. By laying bare the processes through which 'Aidland' was constructed in South Asia, we can test how that community imagined and reinforced a particular (paternalistic) role for itself in the Third World. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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