CFP: Geographies of Global Health, Humanitarianism and Development

Dear Colleagues,

We invite contributions to a themed session at the International Medical Geography Symposium in Edinburgh in June 2022 on ‘Geographies of Global Health, Humanitarianism and Development’

Please do get in touch if you would like to be involved in the session as a paper contributor, discussant etc. The below sketches out some initial ideas, but we’d love to hear from others working in the field who may have ideas about how to shape the session further. Please get in touch by January 22, all participants will need to be registered with the IMGS by February 11.

Session overview: The conceptual and practical boundaries between the endeavours of global health, development and humanitarianism are more porous than academic engagements often suggest. For example, while ‘medical humanitarianism’ has been subject to fascinating critical inquiry, it is often cast as a separate entity to that of global health as well as development. The siloed thinking can largely be traced to the institutional architectures of the fields that tend to call on different areas of expertise, activities, funding streams and organisational remits.

This session seeks to explore how and why the boundaries between these domains persist, how they can be challenged and examples of where they may have been torn apart. On the ground, many ‘emergencies’ are a complex mosaic of existing and emergent human need that knocks at the frontiers of global health, humanitarian and development thought and practice. The West African Ebola epidemic, for example, has been explored as both problem of and challenge to global health (security) and a humanitarian emergency, whose human and material consequences can arguably be traced back to the vulnerabilities wrought by the region’s development trajectory and challenges.

When it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic, the ‘humanitarian emergency’ has been very tightly conscribed in relation to either geographic contexts where protracted crises have become the norm or where the scale of the epidemic surge has quickly overwhelmed health systems. And yet, reality has often been one of extreme and unrelenting humanitarian need that has been both magnified and obscured by the global health challenges presented by Covid-19. Amid the rush to attend to the global health crisis, it is also the case that ongoing development programmes, interventions and funding flows have been disrupted thereby further exacerbating conditions of vulnerability, deepening poverty and driving inequality . Given the tight imbrication of global health and humanitarianism and the rapidly-changing practices and remits of both domains, this session will explore what geographical research and perspectives might bring to the field.

Specifically, it seeks to question:

1. Whether it is possible (or useful) to demarcate boundaries between global health, development and humanitarian practice

2. How Covid-19 has changed the landscapes of and challenges to global health as humanitarianism and humanitarianism as global health

3. The existential challenges to humanitarianism given calls for institutional reform, the persistence of protracted, chronic crises and blocks on the international surge model.

With best wishes, Clare Herrick (Geography, KCL) and Ann H. Kelly (Global Health and Social Medicine, KCL) Ann H. Kelly Professor of Anthropology and Global Health Head of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine King’s College London, Bush House North East Wing 2.01, London, UK