With complex humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters occurring with greater severity and frequency in various parts of the world, questions of humanitarianism – particularly how it should be conceived and practised – have become all the more relevant to our rapidly globalising world. In spite of conventional perspectives of humanitarianism as constituting a ‘universal’ value that transcends both time and context, there are diverse interpretations of this complex concept.
Arising from presentations and discussions at the workshop on Cultures of Humanitarianism: Perspectives from the Asia-Pacific held at the Australian National University, this collection of essays co-edited by Dr Miwa Hirono explore and interrogate the universality of the concept of humanitarianism by examining approaches found in China, Japan and Indonesia.
The essays highlight issues of power, representation and agency that reflect the cultural, normative and political complexity of this dynamic region. Exploration of cultures of humanitarianism has only just begun. The issues and questions raised in these essays suggest directions for future research.