Beyond humanitarian logics: Volunteer-refugee encounters in Chios and Paris

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Since 2015, grassroots volunteers have emerged as key actors in the humanitarian response to Europe’s “refugee crisis.” Based on ethnographic research on the Greek island of Chios and in Paris, this essay explores how volunteers navigate the ethical and political dilemmas inherent to humanitarian action in their everyday encounters with refugees. We argue that while volunteers sometimes mimic disciplinary humanitarian practices, the exchange of “biographical life” in and beyond camps allows volunteers to reimagine a more dignified provision of care and for creative solidarities to emerge. The presence of volunteers, we conclude, thus plays an important role in re-humanizing and re-politicizing refugee spaces, thereby challenging—even if momentarily—dominant humanitarian logics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-186
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • refugees
  • volunteers
  • humanitarianism
  • Migration

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