Editorial introduction: Understanding modern humanitarianism

International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition)

No.3, 2017 


Editorial introduction: Understanding modern humanitarianism



Iain Wilkinson


This article introduces the special issue on Understanding Modern Humanitarianism. It outlines some key interests that feature in contemporary academic accounts of humanitarianism with a concern to make clear the new challenges that are being issued to the field by those concerned to combat its ‘presentist orientation’ or its tendency to operate in a mode of critical denunciation. It notes the issues at stake for those working to set contemporary humanitarianism within more analytically developed frameworks of historical and sociological understandings that seek to reveal its originating circumstances, multiple conditions and developmental trajectories. It argues that modern humanitarianism is an ongoing revolution in the ethics of care and that we are still very much grappling to understand how this is working itself out within our social subjectivities, moral behaviours and political practices.