Non-Human Humanitarians

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The study of humanitarian intervention typically focuses on the human victims and saviours in armed conflict and natural disasters. Moreover, explanations of the virtues of humanitarian norms and ethics emphasise the importance of the university of suffering and the empathic nature of humanitarian efforts. In contrast, this article explores the neglected world of 'non-human humanitarians'. Specifically, the article outlines three cases of non-human actors that expand and complicate international humanitarian practices: dogs, drones, and diagrams. Drawing on new materialist and posthuman literatures, the article argues that non-humans possess distinct capacities that vastly expand and transform humanitarian efforts in ranging from relief, to medicine, to conflict resolution. Highlighting non-human humanitarians thus offers a new perspective on the resources available for redressing mass violence and conflict, but also complicates existing definitions of humanitarian norms. To the contrary, the article demonstrates that non-humans often maximise humanitarian services to a degree greater than their human counterparts, but have also introduced changes into humanitarian practices that have problematic unintended consequences. Non-human humanitarians reveals previously discounted participants in international politics and the key roles they play in various international interventions. © British International Studies Association 2018.

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Review of International Studies

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