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Read Lisa Smirl’s Chapter from Empire, Development and Colonialism: “Plain Tales from the Reconstruction Site”

Empire, Development and ColonialismLast year Mark Duffield and Vernon Hewitt published Empire, Development and Colonialism: The Past in the Present, which brought together a number of perspectives and approaches to comparing the contemporary debates on international development and humanitarian intervention and the historical artefacts and strategies of Empire.

Lisa Smirl was a lecturer of International Relations at the University of Sussex and contributed a chapter to the book, titled “Plain Tales from the Reconstruction Site: Spatial continuities in contemporary humanitarian practice”. She sadly passed away last year prior to the publication of Empire, Development and Colonialism.

Read Smirl’s chapter:

The idea of a ‘pure’ or natural disaster is a pervasive one. The occurrence of an ‘Act of God’ appears to be the one instance where international intervention is beyond criticism: the blamelessness of the victims translates into an ethical imperative for action on the part of the ‘international community’ to alleviate the resultant suffering (Edkins, 2000). While it is possible to point to many instances of critique of political interventions (Mamdani, 2007; Pugh, 2005; Chandler, 2006) and others who critique the efficacy or appropriateness of certain modes of disaster relief (Duffield, 1991; Edkins, 2000; Keen, 1994; De Waal, 1997), there are few authors who problematized the basic premise that the international community has a responsibility to provide assistance to those affected by a natural disaster (Bankoff, 2001; Hewitt, 1995). Yet authors such as Smith (2006), Davis (2000), and O’Keefe (1976) stress that while natural hazards exist, the severity of their impact on human settlement is determined by human decisions: where and how to build; access to preventive measures; the existence and knowledge of escape routes.

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