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Disquieting Gifts: Humanitarianism in New Delhi

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While most people would not consider sponsoring an orphan's education to be in the same category as international humanitarian aid, both acts are linked by the desire to give. Many studies focus on the outcomes of humanitarian work, but the impulses that inspire people to engage in the first place receive less attention. Disquieting Gifts takes a close look at people worki While most people would not consider sponsoring an orphan's education to be in the same category as international humanitarian aid, both acts are linked by the desire to give. Many studies focus on the outcomes of humanitarian work, but the impulses that inspire people to engage in the first place receive less attention. Disquieting Gifts takes a close look at people working on humanitarian projects in New Delhi to explore why they engage in philanthropic work, what humanitarianism looks like to them, and the ethical and political tangles they encounter. Motivated by debates surrounding Marcel Mauss's The Gift, Bornstein investigates specific cases of people engaged in humanitarian work to reveal different perceptions of assistance to strangers versus assistance to kin, how the impulse to give to others in distress is tempered by its regulation, suspicions about recipient suitability, and why the figure of the orphan is so valuable in humanitarian discourse. The book also focuses on vital humanitarian efforts that often go undocumented and ignored and explores the role of empathy in humanitarian work.


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While most people would not consider sponsoring an orphan's education to be in the same category as international humanitarian aid, both acts are linked by the desire to give. Many studies focus on the outcomes of humanitarian work, but the impulses that inspire people to engage in the first place receive less attention. Disquieting Gifts takes a close look at people worki While most people would not consider sponsoring an orphan's education to be in the same category as international humanitarian aid, both acts are linked by the desire to give. Many studies focus on the outcomes of humanitarian work, but the impulses that inspire people to engage in the first place receive less attention. Disquieting Gifts takes a close look at people working on humanitarian projects in New Delhi to explore why they engage in philanthropic work, what humanitarianism looks like to them, and the ethical and political tangles they encounter. Motivated by debates surrounding Marcel Mauss's The Gift, Bornstein investigates specific cases of people engaged in humanitarian work to reveal different perceptions of assistance to strangers versus assistance to kin, how the impulse to give to others in distress is tempered by its regulation, suspicions about recipient suitability, and why the figure of the orphan is so valuable in humanitarian discourse. The book also focuses on vital humanitarian efforts that often go undocumented and ignored and explores the role of empathy in humanitarian work.

41 review for Disquieting Gifts: Humanitarianism in New Delhi

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kim Shively

    I've decided to give all academic books 5 stars (unless they really stink). They are trying to convey knowledge, not titillate our senses. In any case, this particular book gave me some useful frameworks to think about my research--that's what I want from academic books. I've decided to give all academic books 5 stars (unless they really stink). They are trying to convey knowledge, not titillate our senses. In any case, this particular book gave me some useful frameworks to think about my research--that's what I want from academic books.

  2. 4 out of 5

    fleetofhorses

  3. 4 out of 5

    Zach Adamz

  4. 5 out of 5

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    لميا

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  39. 4 out of 5

    Stanford University Press

  40. 5 out of 5

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