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  • The Humanitarian Aid Field and Doctors Without Borders

    Joachim J. Savelsberg

    Chapter from the book: Savelsberg, J. 2015. Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur.


    This chapter examines representations of mass violence in Darfur by the humanitarian-aid field, particularly by Doctors without Borders (MSF). These representations differ from those of the human rights field in that they highlight aspects of suffering that can be addressed by humanitarian-aid programs. The government of Sudan is treated cautiously. Long-term conditions are privileged over the government actions that directly caused the violence. The humanitarian-catastrophe frame is privileged over the state-crime frame, and actors shy away from the genocide label. The powerful position of the government of Sudan vis-à-vis the humanitarian-aid field is identified as a crucial condition for such representation. Despite a global humanitarian representation, the variation of narratives in the human rights field is also noted. In addition to cross-national variation, lawyers within MSF are less divorced from the logic of the justice cascade than members of other professions, especially physicians. Conflicts between the human rights and humanitarian fields may, however, give way to a division of labor, when humanitarian organizations produce evidence of suffering that justice institutions use to attribute criminal responsibility.

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    Savelsberg, J. 2015. The Humanitarian Aid Field and Doctors Without Borders. In: Savelsberg, J, Representing Mass Violence. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.4.e

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on Aug. 27, 2015