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UCI School of Social Sciences

Dear CIHA blog readers,

Please subscribe to our new site and check out our four contributions to In the News, following on the controversy surrounding Kony 2012. They include practical suggestions for Westerners involved in aid work to move forward, and continue to explore the nuances of the "white savior" complex that we believe needs to be overcome.


-- Cecelia Lynch, "After Kony 2012: Three Ways NGOs can work with Africans as equals" (cross-posted on the CS Monitor):

It's hard know whether to be dismayed by all the attention given to the Kony 2012 campaign and YouTube video, or pleased that some of the issues that I and others have worked on for years are finally coming to light.

Humanitarianism in Africa gets oversimplified in myriad ways, in the process making Africans themselves one-dimensional and raising up the white (most frequently, although not always) Westerner as savior. For real progress, Americans need to be committed to a deeper understanding of the causes of poverty both in the US and abroad. Donors and NGOs need an approach that acknowledges the humanity and agency of everyone. And they need creative ways to break through conventional wisdom about "development" to promote justice and equality. In the wake of Kony 2012, here are three points of advice for how nongovernmental organizations, and the donors who push them, can work with African citizens as equals. Continue reading.....

-- Jennifer Lentfer, "Fumble and Bumble: A review of Ruth Stark's book, How to Work in Someone Else's Country" (cross-posted on how-matters.org):

Do you have a colleague that just won't shut up about the fight he's having with his sibling over the family vacation home? Or an intern who dressed way too provocatively when you were on a field visit last week? What about the person who constantly blames everything that doesn't go their way on the incapacity or corruption of "the locals"? We have all worked with these people. If we're honest, we perhaps have even been these people at certain times. We didn't know any better... until we did. Ruth Stark writes a book, though, to help make the learning process a bit easier. Continue reading....

Jennifer Lentfer, "How are the game changers spending their time?":

"Tell the truth," I asked my friend at headquarters. "How much of every day do you spend talking about beneficiaries?" "Who?" she joked, the essential problem revealed. Last month I re-entered an international non-governmental organization (INGO) after five years of working with small foundations and local groups. It is conversations such as these that remind me of why I left. I am once again surrounded by smart, driven, committed people. But unfortunately they are largely a group of people who are also exhausted, overwhelmed, and discouraged by fighting while propagating the very organizations in which they serve. Continue reading...

-- Teju Cole, "The White Savior Industrial Complex" (originally posted in the Atlantic):

A week and a half ago, I watched the Kony2012 video. Afterward, I wrote a brief seven-part response, which I posted in sequence on my Twitter account. These tweets were retweeted, forwarded, and widely shared by readers. They migrated beyond Twitter to blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, and other sites; I'm told they generated fierce arguments. As the days went by, the tweets were reproduced in their entirety on the websites of the Atlantic and the New York Times, and they showed up on German, Spanish, and Portuguese sites. A friend emailed to tell me that the fourth tweet, which cheekily name-checks Oprah, was mentioned on Fox television. These sentences of mine, written without much premeditation, had touched a nerve. Continue reading....


With your help, we are striving to create a growing forum to address the many contours and perspectives within ongoing debates about humanitarianism in Africa. Please help us grow (we now have a readership of over 1000 people across Africa, North America, Europe, and parts of Asia) by sharing our site with interested friends and colleagues, and letting us know!


Cecelia Lynch
CIHA Blog Editor, http://www.cihablog.com
Professor, Department of Political Science, and
Director, International Studies

University of California, Irvine
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Irvine, CA 92697 USA
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