Freetown, its landslides, and the problems of preparedness

  I was in Freetown when the August 14 mudslide happened. The morning of the disaster, I went to breakfast and saw a friend who, unaware of the extent of the human toll, had received a call from a co-worker. The co-worker reported that one of their colleagues' house had collapsed. Children had been killed.... Continue Reading →


Politics and memory in the fever archive: A tribute to Rosalind Shaw

Here is the text for the talk I gave during a celebration of the work of Rosalind Shaw Politics and memory in the fever archive First, I need to apologize to the discussants and the audience. Two things happened between the time I sent this already fragmented paper to Jean and Rosalind. I participated in... Continue Reading →

Falling in love: the reductive seduction of social entrepreneurship

Or is it the seductive reduction of social entrepreneurship? I've seen Courtney Martin's essay circulating for the past few days; I read it amongst a slew of development articles popping up in my Twitter timeline. The point of the essay appears to be: don't go to work on development/social change projects in other countries simply because... Continue Reading →


Rich people’s shit and other fun things in humanitarian pop culture

A few years ago, I wrote a paper about the brouhaha over Salma Hayek’s breastfeeding a Sierra Leonean baby. I delivered that paper a few places and it started a relatively long and fairly complicated relationship with what I’ve been calling “humanitarian popular culture.” Into this category, many things fit: the satirical Matt Damon’s Children ad on... Continue Reading →


On the off chance that war doesn’t change everything: more on Ebola

I’m trying not to make my commentary about the current Ebola outbreak about representation, but I’ve been a bit troubled by the political analyses accompanying the epidemiological and health systems ones. Specifically, I want to talk a bit about how Liberia’s and Sierra Leone’s civil wars have been deployed by these analysts to understand the response... Continue Reading →


Blurred lines: development, human rights, humanitarianism

Last week, we read Bornstein and Redfield's introductory chapter to Forces of Compassion. In it, the authors outline a distinction among development, human rights, and humanitarianism. The temporal orientation, disciplinary foci, and the professions associated with each of these forms of social action seem to distinguish them from each other. The authors state, for example,... Continue Reading →


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