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Everyday Humanitarianism in Tanzania

Funded by DANIDA through The Consultative Research Committee on Development Research (FFU) and Danish Fellowship Centre.

Everyday Humanitarianism in Tanzania (EveryHumanTZ) is a joint research project between Denmark and Tanzania that delves into everyday humanitarianism in Tanzania.

The project focuses on how Tanzanians respond to crises outside formal humanitarian structures, challenging assumptions about aid predominantly flowing from the Global North. Through extensive fieldwork, EveryHumanTZ explores diverse acts of giving by ordinary citizens, aiming to understand their impact on local dynamics and the broader humanitarian narrative.


Three key contributions define EveryHumanTZ:

  1. EveryHumanTZ explores the everyday humanitarian actions of ordinary citizens, outside of institutional and formal structures and documenting the increasing diversity of actors undertaking interventions in development and humanitarianism contexts.

  2. EveryHumanTZ examines these responses in a Southern context, not through the typical Northern perspective.

  3. EveryHumanTZ focuses explicitly on the givers as well as the receivers.

With Tanzania facing significant humanitarian challenges, including the influx of Burundian refugees since 2015, EveryHumanTZ seeks to uncover the unrecognized acts of solidarity that sustain communities amidst crises. By spotlighting these actions, the project aims to reveal the resilience and agency of Tanzanians in shaping responses to emergencies, contributing to a more nuanced understanding of humanitarianism.


Conceptualizing “Everyday Humanitarianism”: Ethics, Affects, and Practices of Contemporary Global Helping

Humanitarianism has become increasingly widespread in our public life— from celebrity culture to Twitter messaging and from Christmas shopping to concert-going. This Special Issue introduces the concept of  “Everyday Humanitarianism” for understanding an expanded series of practices in the lives of citizens that purport to make a difference outside the traditional boundaries of professional humanitarian activity.  The term can also refer to the quotidian practices of humanitarian workers as they negotiate within the boundaries of formal structures. Everyday humanitarianism can be found in shopping malls and international organizations alike, and the struggles over its ethics and politics are consistent. Key questions arise: What does helping look like in the age of market-driven, digital media-based action? What are the implications of such practices for the ethics and politics of contemporary compassion? The contributions to this Special Issue examine everyday humanitarianism and provide unconventional, interdisciplinary approaches to understanding selected aspects of this civic and organizational benevolence.

The Messy Practice of Decolonising a Concept: Everyday Humanitarianism in Tanzania

This article explores the messy practice of decolonising a concept through collaborative work between scholars researching together the meaning of everyday humanitarianism in Tanzania. Humanitarianism is typically understood as the state-centric, formal, Northern-driven helping of distant others in crisis. Using the concept of everyday humanitarianism, our article challenges these assumptions in three ways. First, it explores the everyday humanitarian actions of ordinary citizens in times of crisis. Second, it explores these responses in a Southern context. Third, it focuses explicitly on the givers and not only the receivers of humanitarian help. Our work grounds decolonisation in the actual practices of research aimed at theory building as an iterative back-and-forth exchange with particular attention to power, rather than as a transplant of Northern theory on the South, or its opposite. Our first argument is that the objective of collaborative research to capture the local politics of giving and then use these practices to interrogate the theoretical concept of everyday humanitarianism can be decolonising. Second, we argue that the practices of the academic labour that produces knowledge or inductive theory can also be decolonising. Understanding both the challenges and the possibilities of decolonising ‘humanitarianism’ will provide an opportunity to document and thus legitimate the complexity that is inherent in decolonising a discipline.

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