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RSC seminar, 29 May 2024

Public Seminar Series, Trinity term 2024

Series convened by Professor Naohiko Omata and Professor Tom Scott-Smith

Speaker: Dr Estella Carpi (UCL)

About the book

Traditionally, humanitarianism is considered a nonpolitical urgent response to human suffering. However, this characterization ignores the politics that create and are created by the crises and the increasingly long-term dimension of relief.

In The Politics of Crisis-Making (Indiana University Press, 2023) by shedding light on how humanitarian practice becomes enmeshed with diverse forms of welfare and development, Estella Carpi exposes how the politics of defining crises affect the social identity and membership of the displaced. Her ethnographic research in Lebanon brings to light interactions among aid workers, government officials, internally displaced citizens, migrants, and refugees after the 2006 war in Beirut's southern suburbs and during the 2011-2013 arrival of refugees from Syria to the Akkar District (northern Lebanon). By documenting different cultures, modalities, and traditions of assistance, Carpi offers a full account of how the politics of crisis-making play out in Lebanon.

An important read, The Politics of Crisis-Making shows that it is not crisis per se, but rather the crisis as official discourse and management that are able to reshuffle societies, while engendering unequal political, moral, and nationality-based economies.

About the speaker

Dr Estella Carpi is a Lecturer in Humanitarian Studies at the Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction, University College London. Over the last decade, her research has mainly focused on social responses to conflict-induced humanitarian assistance in the Levant and Turkey. More broadly, her academic work has revolved around identity politics in crisis-affected settings, anthropology of the state and humanitarianism, and the overlapping of welfare and emergency relief. She is currently a 2020-25 Global Young Academy Member, where she co-led the At-Risk Scholars Initiative between 2021 and 2023, and actively participates in the Harmonising Reason with Sensibility and the Anti-Discrimination Group.

In 2016, she was awarded the “Mobility, Displacement, and Forced Migration in the Middle East” research grant from the Centre for International and Regional Studies (Georgetown University-Qatar), to undertake a study on the politics of urban livelihoods in the border economies of Southeastern Turkey and Northern Lebanon. She is the author of The Politics of Crisis-Making: Forced Displacement and Cultures of Assistance in Lebanon (Indiana University Press, 2023), and of Specchi Scomodi. Etnografia delle Migrazioni Forzate nel Libano Contemporaneo (Mimesis, 2018).