Skip to content
Open global navigation

Cambridge University Press

AcademicLocation selectorSearch toggleMain navigation toggle

Your Cart


You have 0 items in your cart.

Register Sign in Wishlist
Look Inside Humanitarianism and Suffering

Humanitarianism and Suffering
The Mobilization of Empathy

$114.99 (Z)

Thomas W. Laqueur, David P. Forsythe, Joseph R. Slaughter, Rony Brauman, Margaret M. R. Kellow, Flora A. Keshgegian, Michael R. Marrus, Elizabeth Jelin, Laura Suski, Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, Ron Dudai, Susan Slymovics, Lars Waldorf
View all contributors
  • Date Published: November 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521883856

$114.99 (Z)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • 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 analyze the character, form, and voice of private or public narratives themselves and explain how and why some narratives of suffering energize political movements of solidarity, whereas others do not. Humanitarianism and Suffering explores when, how, and why humanitarian movements become widespread popular movements. It shows how popular sentiments move political and social elites to action and, conversely, how national elites appropriate humanitarian ideals for more instrumental ends.

    • Remarkable list of international contributors including Rony Brauman, David Forsythe, Elizabeth Jelin, Thomas Laqueur and Michael Marrus
    • Fascinating perspective of humanitarian practices and how humanitarian and human rights groups have generated empathy for those in distress
    • Variety of contributors from anthropology, history, sociology as well as varied occupations makes the book unique
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    “As humanitarian workers and human rights activists we owe it to those most in need that they are protected against well-intended incompetence. Through a generation of humanitarian and human rights work I have seen how the difference between good and bad action is measured in lives lost or saved. We therefore need this excellent, critical, and systematic review of humanitarianism and suffering in our time.
    --Jan Egeland, Director, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and former UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (2003-2006)

    “Superbly conceived and wonderfully executed: this book offers a sustained analysis of the changing historical connections between humanitarian sentiments, humanitarian interventions, and the complex ways these are articulated with civil society and legal and political institutions. An outstanding account of why some narratives of suffering stimulate political movements of solidarity while others do not.”
    --David Held, Graham Wallas Professor of Political Science, London School of Economics

    “Humanitarian action not only reflects politics, law, and administration, but it is deeply ethical. Humanitarianism and Suffering contains sharp interdisciplinary insights in vivid and superbly nuanced essays about the moral imperative of helping strangers caught in the cross-hairs of violence.”
    --Thomas G. Weiss, Presidential Professor of Political Science, Director, Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York

    “What do we humans owe each other in an ever more interconnected world? This book provides a rich and moving interdisciplinary exploration of the most pressing problem of our time.”
    --Ruti Teitel, Ernst C Stiefel Professor of Comparative Law, New York Law School

    " eclectic, yet surprisingly coherent, set of essays that analyze how and why narratives of suffering help humanitarian movements to catch on among the broader publics, and also how power-holders have abused such humanitarian ideals for more self-aggrandizing political ends....Humanitarianism and Suffering is an important book that will be of great interest to scholars who teach and do research in the multi-disciplinary fields of human rights and humanitarian affairs. As such, professors of political science, law, international studies, ethics, literature and anthropology will find this book to be of great interest. Likewise, those working as practitioners in the humanitarian assistance/aid industry will find useful the book’s lucid analyses, and its attempt to untangle the multi-faceted subject of humanitarianism. The book is easily compared to David Kennedy’s The Dark Side of Virtue (2004) and is, in the view of the present reviewer, the most systematic and attentive treatment of humanitarianism since the publication of Kennedy’s 2004 book....recommend to anyone who is interested in issues concerning humanitarian affairs and human rights."
    --Eric A. Heinze, University of Oklahoma, Human Rights & Human Welfare

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2008
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521883856
    • length: 330 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.61kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Histories and Contexts:
    1. Mourning, pity, and the work of narrative in the making of 'humanity' Thomas W. Laqueur
    2. Contemporary humanitarianism: the global and the local contemporary David P. Forsythe
    3. Humanitarian reading Joseph R. Slaughter
    4. Global media and the myths of humanitarian relief: the case of the 2004 tsunami Rony Brauman
    5. Hard struggles of doubt: abolitionists and the problem of slave redemption Margaret M. R. Kellow
    6. 'Starving Armenians': the politics and ideology of humanitarian aid in the first decades of the twentieth century Flora A. Keshgegian
    7. International bystanders to the Holocaust and humanitarian intervention Michael R. Marrus
    Part II. Narratives and Redress:
    8. Victims, relatives and citizens in Argentina: whose voice is legitimate enough? Elizabeth Jelin
    9. Children, suffering and the humanitarian appeal Laura Suski
    10. The physicality of legal consciousness: suffering and the production of credibility in refugee resettlement Kristin Bergtora Sandvik
    11. 'Can you describe this?': human rights reports and what they tell us about the human rights movement Ron Dudai
    12. Financial reparations, blood money, and human rights witness testimony: Morocco and Algeria Susan Slymovics
    13. Remnants and remains: narratives of suffering in post-genocide Rwanda's Gacaca courts Lars Waldorf.

  • Editors

    Richard Ashby Wilson, University of Connecticut

    Richard D. Brown, Unversity of Connecticut


    Thomas W. Laqueur, David P. Forsythe, Joseph R. Slaughter, Rony Brauman, Margaret M. R. Kellow, Flora A. Keshgegian, Michael R. Marrus, Elizabeth Jelin, Laura Suski, Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, Ron Dudai, Susan Slymovics, Lars Waldorf

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website, your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Back to top

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.

Cancel Delete

Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.