Factivism: A New Configuration of Humanitarian Reason

 Katharyne Mitchell (2017): ‘Factivism’: A New Configuration of Humanitarian Reason, Geopolitics, DOI: 10.1080/14650045.2016.1185606

New actors and ideas about poverty management and humanitarian

assistance have arisen in recent years. The underlying

context of this shift includes a growing awareness of the

limitations and failures of both military forms of humanitarian

intervention and unfettered market-based solutions to aid and

development. This paper explores the particular form that

global humanitarianism is taking in this millennial context. I

argue that a new configuration of humanitarian reason is

emerging that draws on both neoliberal and pastoral rationalities

of governance. The former can be associated with efficiency,

transparency, and quantitative evidence, while the

latter is articulated with individual compassion, devotion, and

Christian duty. Using the celebrity humanitarian Bono and his

rhetoric of ‘factivism’ as an illustrative example, the paper

explores the way that this message is transmitted through

geosocial discourses and networks. It indicates some of the

ways that the personal and media dissemination of this new

ideology of charismatic, yet rational care helps to weave pastoral

rationalities into forms of political authority.

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