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Organizing Disaster: The Construction of Humanitarianism

Organizing Disaster: The Construction of Humanitarianism.


Adam Rostis, Dalhousie University, Canada


This book challenges the taken-for-granted status of organizations such as the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres, by problematizing humanitarianism. Such organizations can be selective of the type of suffering that receives attention - empirical studies of humanitarianism note that the suffering it purports to alleviate is increasing although aid is now highly organized, funded, and globalized. These observations inform the key question of the book: what purpose does the humanitarian organization serve?

Rostis explores this question, focusing on the European colonial era and the Biafra War. The role of colonialism in the humanitarian organization is made apparent, and facilitates an interpretation of the results of inquiry using postcolonial theory.

This unique contribution to organization studies re-reads humanitarianism to show that humanitarian organizations essentially serve as global disciplinary institutions. It will be essential reading for scholars in political science, international sociology, organization studies, international affairs and organizational communication.

Book Information

ISBN Print: 9781785606854
Publication Date: 31 March 2016
Format print: Hardback
Dimensions: x
Primary BIC code: KJU, JPWH

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About the Author

Adam Rostis is a former critical management scholar, and now a practicing doctor at Dalhousie University, Canada, and has over 12 years experience working in Canada, Africa and Europe in research, policy, development and disaster management.



"An important and groundbreaking book. Challenging, provocative and a much needed scholarly critique of the colonial project that is humanitarianism."
Professor Bobby Banerjee, Cass Business School, City University London, UK

"In a brilliant genealogical and postcolonial analysis, this work articulates modes of subjectivation produced by and being produced through the naturalization of humanitarianism as organizational discourse and practice. As such, the study beckons the reader in an unexpected way to gain a fuller understanding of contemporary global organizations by going beyond those specifically designated as 'humanitarian'."
Professor Marta B. Cal