Nonhuman Humanitarians

Animal Interventions in Global Politics

2023
Author:

Benjamin Meiches

Examining the appearance of nonhuman animals laboring alongside humans in humanitarian operations

Nonhuman Humanitarians explores the role of animals laboring alongside humans in humanitarian operations, generating new ethical possibilities of care and transforming the basic tenets of humanitarianism. Meiches reveals that care, compassion, and creativity are creaturely rather than human and that responses to suffering and injustice do not—and cannot—stop at the boundaries of the human.

Both critical and mainstream scholarly work on humanitarianism have largely been framed from anthropocentric perspectives highlighting humanity as the rationale for providing care to others. In Nonhuman Humanitarians, Benjamin Meiches explores the role of animals laboring alongside humans in humanitarian operations, generating new ethical possibilities of care in humanitarian practice.

Nonhuman Humanitarians examines how these animals not only improve specific practices of humanitarian aid but have started to transform the basic tenets of humanitarianism. Analyzing case studies of mine-clearance dogs, milk-producing cows and goats, and disease-identifying rats, Nonhuman Humanitarians ultimately argues that nonhuman animal contributions problematize foundational assumptions about the emotional and rational capacities of humanitarian actors as well as the ethical focus on human suffering that defines humanitarianism.

Meiches reveals that by integrating nonhuman animals into humanitarian practice, several humanitarian organizations have effectively demonstrated that care, compassion, and creativity are creaturely rather than human and that responses to suffering and injustice do not—and cannot—stop at the boundaries of the human.

Benjamin Meiches is associate professor of politics at the University of Washington-Tacoma. He is author of The Politics of Annihilation: A Genealogy of Genocide (Minnesota, 2019).

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