Humanitarian Equipment and the Politics of Need

In this seminar, Peter Redfield will unpack the politics of humanitarian equipment and the assumptions it entails about human needs and what a satisfactory life might be.

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A Mobile Milieu: Humanitarian Equipment and the Politics of Need

Approaching human mobility from the perspective of milieu — the intimate, inclusive envelope of immediate environment — this seminar focuses on humanitarian equipment, from refugee camps to innovative devices that seek to provide for basic needs such as water and sanitation.

Peter Redfield, Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Such objects offer little prospect of producing a satisfying response to human suffering. They also increasingly reflect market interests as much as technocratic planning. Nonetheless, their very inadequacies can expose conflicting assumptions about human needs and aspirations.

Tensions between understandings of what constitutes a satisfactory life emerge at a mundane level, positioning these devices as scalar connection points between individual experience and social imagination. Milieu, I thus suggest, can serve as a revealing conceptual site to investigate the political terrain exposed by human mobility, including rival strains of humanitarian concern, rights advocacy, national identification and ecological anxiety. 

About Peter Redfield

Peter Redfield is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill interested in transnational expertise and the practice of science, technology and medicine in global humanitarian contexts. He is the author of Life in Crisis: The Ethical Journey of Doctors Without Borders (California 2013) and the President of the Society for Cultural Anthropology for the period 2017-2019.

A light refreshment will be served, please register:

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On the seminar series "Global Health Unpacked"

“Global Health Unpacked” is a seminar series that aims to bring together the global health community on a regular basis to critically discuss key debates in Global Health in informal and interactive seminars. Guest speakers (both from the University of Oslo and from other universities) will bring an original perspective to the topic and engage in a conversation with the audience.

With this forum, we also hope to facilitate exchanges and collaborations between global health researchers and students present in Oslo and foster interdisciplinary research. “Global Health Unpacked” is jointly organized by the research group Power and Politics of Global Health, Centre for Development and the EnvironmentUiO Centre for Global Health and Universal Health Coverage and the Public Good in Africa.

Published Aug. 5, 2019 1:08 PM - Last modified Aug. 5, 2019 2:11 PM