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Care and Suspicion: Corruption as Definition in Humanitarian Relations

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This article examines how corruption operates in humanitarianism through considering the operation of humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees. The author argues that suspicion and accusations of corruption play an essential role in defining what humanitarianism is for both providers and recipients. While it is argued that no consensus is present for the definitions of humanitarianism, the author argues that the lens of corruption in refugee assistance can advance a number of arguments. First, that suspicion and accusations of corruption establish and elaborate the refugee as a category of humanitarian governance, and second, that it articulates and consolidates an array of obligations and responsibilities across the humanitarian field. The author argues that suspicions about the motives and probity of humanitarian assistance that is deployed in the language of corruption is part of the contestation over defining humanitarianism. In this sense, corruption accusations become means through which varying actors define what humanitarianism is.

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Current Anthropology