Provincializing empathy: Humanitarian sentiment and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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Abstract

This article considers the role of the humanitarian sentiment empathy in peace initiatives in the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Recently, a sustained critique of humanitarianism has emerged. While many of these accounts focus on the ethical effects of specific manifestations of humanitarian governance, there is a significant strain criticizing the inherent logical structure of humanitarian empathy, and questioning the innate ability of the humanitarian tradition to understand ethical questions politically. This critique does not resonate with my fieldwork experiences with Jewish Israeli conscientious objectors, who are explicitly inspired by empathetic experiences with Palestinians, and interpret these experiences politically. Thus, following Dipesh Chakrabartys example, I suggest that provincializing the humanitarian tradition is a more productive anthropological stance than critique, because it similarly allows us to criticize universal claims and abuses of power, while not subscribing to determinism, and not repudiating our interlocutors core ethical beliefs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-292
Number of pages18
JournalAnthropological Theory
Volume15
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2015

Keywords

  • Critique
  • empathy
  • ethics
  • humanitarianism
  • sentiment

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