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Helping the Wounded as Heroic Mission: Self-Organization of Humanitarian Action in Karen State, Myanmar

  • Cornell University 640 Stewart Avenue Ithaca, NY, 14850 United States (map)

Crisis, warring, and never-ending suffering propel humanitarian organizations to the forefront of media attention. Examining the use of témoignage (witnessing) in the work of MSF, Peter Redfield notes that big NGOs now play a central role in defining secular moral truth for an international audience (Redfield 2006: 5–6). Combining medical expression, expert knowledge, public expression, and in the case of the Free Burma Rangers, mission, health organizations are able to mobilize both the most vulnerable people as well as substantial financial and moral support from a great field of followers (Redfield 2013). Moreover, the Free Burma Rangers also involve Rangers and ethnic minority villagers in witnessing and fact finding, by training them for independent human rights documentation, which will then feed the news of their website.

Through the work of the Free Burma Rangers (FBR), professor Alexander Horstmann looks at how emergency healthcare is provided for the wounded ethnic minorities in Myanmar’s border zones and analyzes how humanitarian health organizations shape new landscapes for humanitarian assistance and mobilization.

Alexander Horstmann is an Associate Professor in Anthropology of Southeast Asia,at the School of Humanities at Tallinn University. His teaching includes Current Anthropology courses, Applied Anthropology “LIFE” project courses, AsianPolitics and Society courses, and PhD courses in Cultural Studies.

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  • Cornell Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies

  • Cornell Southeast Asia Program

  • Cornell East Asia Program

  • Cornell Department of Anthropology