Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Everything that Rises Must Converge: Huaicos, the Spirit of Solidarity and the Asymmetrical Uses of Humanitarian Aid in Peru

Leon, Vicente and Bird, Matthew and Leon, Erika and Hidalgo, Alejandra (2018): Everything that Rises Must Converge: Huaicos, the Spirit of Solidarity and the Asymmetrical Uses of Humanitarian Aid in Peru.

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Abstract

The huaicos and flooding caused in 2017 by the El Niño Costero phenomenon mobilized Peruvian society to give humanitarian aid. But to what extent did the humanitarian agenda and the victims’ needs misalign, and what are the implications for this asymmetry for the reproduction of pre-existing social relations? We answer these questions via a qualitative study with 80 interviews and 30 participant observation notes covering state and private actors and victims. The disaster created by the huaicos challenged the response capacity and accentuated social hierarchies. Humanitarian aid temporarily activated a spirit of solidarity that created an asymmetrical exchange of material and symbolic goods, which resulted in multiple uses for the aid. For example, those who donated goods also received recognition from the victims generating warm glow and prestige. But to what extent were the voices of the affected heard? This research contributes to the identification of practical ways to make humanitarian aid more efficient. To this end, we incorporate anthropology of disaster, subaltern studies, and economic anthropology frameworks. Deepening our ethnographic knowledge of organizational cultures and their discourses about charity, solidarity, and social justice is fundamental to incorporating local perspectives and ensuring that disasters transform society, rather than reproduce social inequalities.

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