Who Needs Experts? The politics and practices of solidarity and volunteer humanitarianism in Greece
Seminar Series on Migration Ethnicity and Race
Wednesday 12th February 2020, 1 to 2pm, CBG 11.13
Speaker: Dr Armine Ishkanian (Associate Professor and Academic Lead, AFSEE programme and III Research Committee Member)
Chair: Dr Susanne Wessendorf (Assistant Professorial Research Fellow, International Inequalities Institute)
Since the 1990s, Greece has been both a transit and destination country for migrants but when 850,000 people entered the country in 2015, the situation was termed a “global humanitarian crisis” and by the early 2016, Greece had become the 3rd largest humanitarian intervention in the world. As international humanitarian NGOs and UN agencies began their operations in Greece, they found themselves working in a crowded humanitarian space that was also populated by domestic NGOs, Greek solidarians, international volunteers, EU agencies (e.g., Frontex) and of course, the Greek government. In this talk, drawing on research conducted in Greece with Isabel Shutes in 2017-2018, I discuss the civil society responses to the “crisis” and focus on the politics and practices of two informal, non-professionalised sets of actors: Greek solidarians and international volunteers. Both international volunteers and Greek solidarians criticised the interventions by professional humanitarians and the humanitarian system more generally, arguing that it was overly bureaucratic, ineffective, and apolitical in the sense that it ignored, and in some instances reproduced, structural inequalities. The interventions by solidarians and international volunteers was distinctive from and took place in parallel to the traditional humanitarian system and is representative of a growing global trend of “DIY” aid. Locating the discussion in critical humanitarian studies and drawing on social action theories, in this talk I address the following questions: why did international volunteers and solidarians become involved in aiding refugees and how did their motivations and actions change over time? And, given their critiques of NGOs and the humanitarian system more generally, how did their respective approaches differ and in what ways was their presence in the humanitarian spaces of Greece significant?
Dr Armine Ishkanian is an Associate Professor in Social Policy and the Academic Lead of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity (AFSEE) programme, at the International Inequalities Institute, LSE. Her research examines how civil society organisations and social movements engage in policy processes and transformative politics in a number of countries including Armenia, Egypt, Greece, the UK, etc.
Twitter Hashtag for this event: #LSEMigration