Dispatches from the Margins of the Humanitarian Sector

Posted on: February 21, 2022 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry

Dispatches from the Margins of the Humanitarian Sector

Available now on Amazon and Kindle is my latest book Dispatches from the Margins of the Humanitarian SectorThis is a beta version and I will be deleting, editing, and perhaps adding in the next several months. Please let me know if you’d like to be a beta reader or would like a review copy. This is a compilation of blog posts from the past several years covering a wide range of topics.

Here is the the Introduction

Since publishing Aid Worker Voices in 2016, I have been blogging frequently about the humanitarian aid world. In addition to interviewing countless humanitarians, reading a constant flow of books, articles, and web pages, I have also taught a global social problems course for the last five years. In this class, I have always focused on the nature of the humanitarian system and have frequently invited into my class as guest speakers some of the humanitarians with which I have had the honor of speaking.

This book is a compilation of some of the blog posts that I have written and published in the last seven years. These posts have focused on various aspects of the humanitarian aid system and frequently on things that most would consider to be on the margins of the humanitarian system. As an academic, I squarely inhabit one of these margins, that is, those who study and write about the humanitarian world.

For the most part the chapters are in chronological order based on when they were written, with changes in this pattern due to a clustering of chapters based on topics or themes addressed.

As I write this, the Covid crisis is still impacting the entire world. In my part of the world it is a major public health crissue, but also very much a crisis that disproportionately affects those who have been marginalized. This is true around the world, and in fact, in many places in the world it’s not necessarily a health crisis but rather a poverty crisis. For instance, in Ghana they are calling it the poverty virus. The first section of this book takes a look at some aspects of how the coronavirus has impacted the world.

Through my research, I have been honored to meet online and speak with a large number of Rohingya refugees, most of which are living right now in Bangladesh in Cox’s Bazar. As part of my interviews with these young men and women, I learned that they were doing a good deal of work with and for major INGOs in the camp. That is to say, they were doing humanitarian work. Without permission, I have coined the term ‘refugee humanitarian’ to describe these people. In this section, I report on some of our discussions and describe the pressures under which they live their lives.

I’ve had many humanitarians visit my classes via various platforms like Skype, WhatsApp, and Zoom. These discussions have always been very rich, and I have learned along with my students things about the sector that you can’t find in books. I have also looked at what I’ll call local humanitarian workers in one section where I have the opportunity to become friends with interview officials who are dealing with refugee placement within the United States.

All in all, what you will find in this book are ruminations from a sociologist and researcher about the humanitarian sector. My goal has always been to act as a conduit of information from the sector to whatever public was reading my work.

In several chapters you will find references to the ‘Hydra’ of privileging forces. I have recently published Confronting Toxic Othering which is a compilation of blog posts about the Hydra and how this monster is fueled by toxic othering.

A special feature of this book is that it will continue to expand as the weeks and months pass. As I have time and motivation to tell more stories and to analyze the sector based on interactions I have with humanitarians in the field, refugees in camps, or students in my classes I will add more chapters. Look for a second edition in about a year.

This book is dedicated to humanitarian workers everywhere.

Tom Arcaro

January 2022



Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro is a professor of sociology at Elon University. He has been researching and studying the humanitarian aid and development ecosystem for nearly two decades and in 2016 published 'Aid Worker Voices'. He recently published his second and third books related to the humanitarians sector with 'Confronting Toxic Othering' published in 2021 and 'Dispatches from the Margins of the Humanitarian Sector' in 2022. A revised second edition of 'Confronting Toxic Othering' is now available from Kendall Hunt Publishers

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