Safety of Strangers: Understanding the Realities of Humanitarian Protection

Project: Research council

Project Details


Our research explores the hidden moral anxieties of national/international humanitarian protection actors as they try to provide safety to strangers in South Sudan and its borderlands. We also explore how other actors contest or co-opt these humanitarian ideas and provide different forms of safety. Despite the expansion of humanitarian protection, people are often not kept safe by strangers but are instead left bewildered. People have many different fears, not only of physical harm, but also of spiritual, social and cultural harm. Plus, in reality, all actors have limits to their altruism in practice; even, humanitarian protection itself is partly about protecting humanitarians. Moral schemes are not static but are constantly renegotiated and power dynamics make a difference to these negotiations and subsequent understandings of why and how strangers should be kept safe. These power dynamics can embed hierarchies between men and women, as well as other patterns of social exclusion. We are interested in how people deal with these complex moral, logistical, spiritual and intellectual problems in their daily practices of keeping strangers safe in specific localities during conflict.

Our research uses history (both archival and oral history research), anthropology, curation, ethnomusicology and theology to explore the practice of the UN and NGOs (both international and national), as well as church leaders, chiefs and other local authority figures. Research will be carried out in South Sudan, Uganda and Sudan. Research will be conducted by people based in the UK, as well as academics based at universities in South Sudan and Uganda, early career African researchers, consultants and employees of NGO partners.
Effective start/end date31/07/2030/06/22


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