Combining historical research and ethnographic investigations, the Africanist historian Joël Glasman plunges us into the factory of the homo humanitarianus, the average individual, on the basis of which "needs" and aid projects today are assessed. This conversation took place on December 10th 2020, during a conference-debate at Crash.
How did humanitarian organisations come to describe and measure the suffering of victims using numerical indicators ? When did impartiality become synonymous with allocating aid on the basis of universally quantifiable, comparable and prioritised needs ? What are the power struggles, conflicts of interest and value at the origin of the "universal minimum standards" of the SPHERE project? How did a three-colored plastic bracelet, the MUAC, become one of the key instruments for measuring and qualifying the severity of a nutritional crisis?
These questions are central to the latest book by the Africanist historian Joël Glasman entitled Humanitarianism and the Quantification of the Human Needs. Minimal Humanity (Routledge Humanitarian Press, 2019). Combining historical research and ethnographic investigations, he immerses us in the factory of the homo humanitarianus, the average individual, on the basis of which "needs" and aid projects are assessed today. He told us about it on December 10th, 2020, during this conference and debate.
To cite this content :
Joël Glasman, The quantification of needs, 10 December 2020, URL : https://msf-crash.org/index.php/en/conferences-debates/quantification-needs
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