Humanitarianism and Suffering: The Mobilization of Empathy Introduction
HUMANITARIANISM AND SUFFERING: THE MOBILIZATION OF EMPATHY, Richard Ashby Wilson, Richard D. Brown, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2008
28 Pages Posted: 27 May 2011 Last revised: 28 Mar 2018
Date Written: May 24, 2008
Humanitarian sentiments have motivated a variety of manifestations of pity, from nineteenth-century movements to end slavery to the creation of modern international humanitarian law. While humanitarianism is clearly political, Humanitarianism and Suffering addresses the ways in which it is also an ethos embedded in civil society, one that drives secular and religious social and cultural movements, not just legal and political institutions. As an ethos, humanitarianism has a strong narrative and representational dimension that can generate humanitarian constituencies for particular causes. The emotional nature of compassion is closely linked to visual and literary images of suffering and innocence. Essays in the volume seek to understand the character, form and voice of private or public narratives themselves and to explain how and why some narratives of suffering become part of political movements of solidarity, whereas others do not. Humanitarianism and Suffering is concerned with identifying when, how and why humanitarian movements become widespread popular movements, how popular sentiments move political and social elites to action and conversely, how national elites attempt to appropriate humanitarian ideals for more instrumental ends.
Keywords: Humanitarianism, Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law, Representations of Suffering
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