The Concerned Women of Buduburam: Refugee Activists and Humanitarian Dilemmas (Paperback)Elizabeth Holzer (author)
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In The Concerned Women of Buduburam, Elizabeth Holzer offers an unprecedented firsthand account of the rise and fall of social protests in a long-standing refugee camp. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the host government of Ghana established the Buduburam Refugee Camp in 1990 to provide sanctuary for refugees from the Liberian civil war (1989-2003). Long hailed as a model of effectiveness, Buduburam offered a best-case scenario for how to handle a refugee crisis. But what happens when refugees and humanitarian actors disagree over humanitarian aid? In Buduburam, refugee protesters were met with Ghanaian riot police. Holzer uses the clash to delve into the complex and often hidden world of humanitarian politics and refugee activism.Drawing on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in Ghana and subsequent interviews with participants now returned to Liberia, Holzer exposes a distinctive form of rule that accompanies humanitarian intervention: compassionate authoritarianism. Humanitarians strive to relieve the suffering of refugees, but refugees have little or no access to grievance procedures, and humanitarian authorities face little or no accountability for political failures. By casting humanitarians and refugees as co-creators of a shared sociopolitical world, Holzer throws into sharp relief the contradictory elements of humanitarian crisis and of transnational interventions in poor countries more broadly.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 208
Weight: 340 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 12 mm
"Holzer's engagingly written text is unique in establishing... how women and men experience refugee relief that has morphed into a system of rule. Holzer's attention to the motivations of all involved in the clash between the Liberian refugees, the Ghanaian host government, and the UNHCR is commendable. Along with delineating how social complexities of age, gender, ethnicity, and migration route impact camp politics, she describes the constraints imposed by the basic structures of humanitarian aid. Concerned Women of Buduburam is an unflinching and vital interrogation of the practical pitfalls and theoretical nuances of humanitarian aid."-- Abena Ampofoa Asare * Mobilization *
"The author deploys both extensive ethnographic research and a nuanced review of social theory, examining the 'themes of civic engagement, transnational government, administrative caregiving, political legitimacy, contentious politics and repression.' Integrating their impact, she names the resulting form of rule 'compassionate authoritarianism': compassionate in that its goal is to relieve the suffering of a displaced and traumatized population and authoritarian because clients lack power to pursue their own ends, are blocked from expressing discontent, and are incapable of receiving compensation for administrative failings."-- S. J. Gold * Choice *
"This book is a must read for all those concerned with transnational governance, the practicalities and ethics of humanitarian aid, and human rights in general."-- Katarzyna Grabska, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies * American Journal of Sociology *
"In The Concerned Women of Buduburam, Elizabeth Holzer draws on her extensive fieldwork in Ghana to document and analyze how Liberian refugees, Ghanaian 'hosts,' and international agencies interact with one another in administering camp life. Holzer reveals that camp political life is a complex interweaving of actors at all levels. Humanitarianism is a form of rule, and as such it is shaped by myriad instances of activism, coalition building, conflict, and strategizing."-- Daniel J. Hoffman, University of Washington, author of The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia
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