Paper $28.95 ISBN: 9781783603497 Published April 2015 For sale in North and South America only
Cloth $95.00 ISBN: 9781783603503 Published April 2015 For sale in North and South America only

Spaces of Aid

How Cars, Compounds and Hotels Shape Humanitarianism

Lisa Smirl

Spaces of Aid

Lisa Smirl

Distributed for Zed Books

256 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2015  
Paper $28.95 ISBN: 9781783603497 Published April 2015 For sale in North and South America only
Cloth $95.00 ISBN: 9781783603503 Published April 2015 For sale in North and South America only
One of the most common laments of aid workers is that the relatively cushy conditions of working in the field can contrast uncomfortably with their mission goals. Aid workers often visit project sites in air-conditioned Land Cruisers while the intended beneficiaries walk barefoot through the heat. Similarly, workers may check e-mail from within gated compounds while surrounding communities have no electricity or running water. While such observations might seem obvious, no academic study to date has dealt with the impact of these disparities on theory or policy, until now.

In Spaces of Aid, Lisa Smirl brilliantly analyzes two high-profile case studies—the Aceh tsunami and Hurricane Katrina—in order to uncover a fascinating history of the material objects that are an endemic yet unexamined part of the aid landscape. Smirl provides the first book-length exploration of how aid work has gradually become detached from the lives of those it seeks to help.

Notes to the reader


1. Stories from the field, stories of ’the field’: how aid workers experience the space of the field mission

2. Exploring the humanitarian enclave

3. How the built environment shapes humanitarian intervention

4. Building home away from home: post-tsunami Aceh and the single-family house

5. Playing house: rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Katrina



Review Quotes
Mark Duffield, Professor Emeritus at the University of Bristol and Honorary Professor, University of Birmingham; author of Global Governance and the New Wars
“Inspirational. Lisa Smirl was one of the first to expose the spatial dimensions of aid and thus open to view a whole new area of critique and research.”
Stephen Hopgood, SOAS University of London, and author of The Endtimes of Human Rights and Keepers of the Flame
“No humanitarian scholar or aid worker can afford to ignore the political and moral realities with which this pathbreaking work confronts us.”
Tim Dunne, University of Queensland
“Lisa Smirl was one of the most original and brilliant academics working on the global humanitarian order.”
Michael Barnett, George Washington University, and author of The Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism
“A fascinating and well-written book that unearths an important, but often unseen, part of the humanitarian world. Highly recommended.”
Oliver Richmond, University of Manchester
“A groundbreaking work, which introduces a spatial dimension to humanitarian analysis while spanning fields, disciplines, and geographical areas, in order to explore what is going wrong and what might be done about it.”
Marsha Henry, London School of Economics and Political Science
“Lisa Smirl's remarkable book teaches us that objects and structures of privilege such as the SUV and gated apartment complex contribute to the insecurity perpetuated by the international aid industry. Spaces of Aid provides us with critical insights into everyday aid life in order that we might reflect seriously on our continuing ethical responsibilities and humanitarian interventions. An inspiring read.”
“Lisa Smirl died tragically young in 2013, aged 37. The lecturer in international relations at the University of Sussex made a big impact on the way we think about humanitarian aid. Now friends, colleagues, and fans have brought Smirl’s work together in the book Spaces of Aid in the hope that the debate and reform that she began will continue. The book is a critical examination of the aid landscape, looking at how the built environment of humanitarian staff—from gated communities and hotels to air-conditioned cars and mobile phones—alters power relations between international aid workers and local communities. A book well worth reading.”
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