The Humanitarian Gift

Through my personal learning network, I have been surprisingly successful in finding resources to strengthen my senior capstone project. A journal article in particular that had me hooked was Humanitarianism and Unequal Exchange by Raja Swamy. Through this article I explored the relationship between humanitarian aid and ecologically unequal exchange while a country is experiencing post-disaster reconstruction. The article was dense and lengthy, but what stuck out most to me of this and all the articles I’ve analyzed thus far is the term:

Photo by the Asian Development Bank

humanitarian “gift”.  The example used for this “gift” in particular was the devastating tsunami of 2004 in India’s Nadu state. Houses were given as “gifts”. Sounds absolutely wonderful right? There always has to be a catch! In return of the houses, recipients were expected to hand over any and all claims of the coast to the donor. On one hand the “gift” helped lower political conflicts of the fisherman who are in a constant battle over land and resources, but on the other hand an immediate problem can arise. If a humanitarian organization provides a gift of a house, what is the obligation imposed on recipients as a result of receiving the gift of housing? Yes, it was nice that the fisherman were offered refuge inland, but that meant they were no longer able to partake in their livelihood by the coast. This all touches back to one of my core questions through out my research this semester, is foreign aid given selfishly or selflessly? In reality the state officials could have fixed the bridge for the local fishermen but instead they pushed to have a large and “modern” bridge and fishing harbor in its place. The “gift” of the houses was for the locals who were now forced to move inland and start a new life.  This makes me think of an example my professor told me when I first started the research for this project. There are times when people go to McDonalds and as they are paying the cashier may ask if they would like to make a donation, leading with “would you like the donation to be anonymous or would you like to write your name on this paper for our donation wall?” This provokes an interesting question, is the customer only making a donation because their name will be out for others to see? If the only option was to make an anonymous donation, would they?


One thought on “The Humanitarian Gift”

  1. This seems like a totally pivotal week for you in your research and conceptualization, and this article seems like just the perfect provocation to help you focus on the complexities involved with service trips, disaster charity, and the like. This makes me really hopeful about the article that you will produced: I think it will be nuanced and resist easy conclusions, which will be really key for a topic like this.

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