Humanitarianism as a Form of Government: Interactions in Aid, Meaning-Making, and Well-being for Helpers of Refugees in Greece and Germany, a Multi-sited, Transdisciplinary Ethnography

  • Witcher, Ashley Laurel (PhD Student)
  • Peeters, Koen (Promotor)
  • Gerrets, Rene (Promotor)
  • Kalir, Barak (Copromotor)
  • Krause, Kristine (Copromotor)
  • Fumadó Perez, Victoria (Promotor)

Project Details


This project will explore the interaction between helpers and refugees and asylum seekers using a multi-sited ethnography that is anchored in Lesbos Island and Athens (Greece), and Berlin (Germany). I define a helper as anyone from an aid worker (lawyer, doctor, camp worker, protection officer, etc.) to independent volunteers and government case-workers. I use the legal definitions of both asylum seeker and refugee but also use the term border crosser as a conscious alternative to hierarchical categorizations of migrants (my focus, however, remains on those seeking or having recently been granted asylum). In particular, I look at how the helper conceptualizes and makes meaning out of his or her interaction with border crossers, exploring the differences (and/or similarities between unpaid volunteers and paid aid and government workers). Central to this project are the themes of humanitarianism and governmentality (Foucault 2007 (1977-8); Malkki 1995; 1996; Hyndman 2000, Feldman 2010; 2015, Ticktin 2005; 2006, Fassin 2007; 2011), categorization and representation (Malkki 1995; 1996, Dhawan 2012; Zetter 2007; Cabot 2014; 2016) and well-being (Ryan and Deci 2001; Waterman 1993). I use a transdisciplinary methodology that includes multiple stakeholders from within and without academia and between disciplines. With a transdisciplinary methodology is the aim is for collaborative, solution-oriented research. In this case, questions about well-being, meaning, and best practices are of importance to all stakeholders, and as such, both the questions and methods remain fluid to accommodate the arising interests of stakeholders. I employ an interpretive phenomenological method (Snow 2001; Smith 1997; 2003; 2008) to explore the meaning that helpers give to their experiences, and how this meaning affects their ability to work effectively and efficiently.
Effective start/end date11/04/191/06/22

IWETO expertise domain

  • B680-public-health


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