Local medical humanitarianism: the merits of a social movement theory approach

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


This paper explores the complex position of local health workers at times of political unrest or conflict. It draws on social movement theory, a well-honed framework for conceptualising collective action in contention studies, but a novel approach in the study of local medical humanitarian initiatives. The paper consists of two parts. The first part focuses on the propriety of social movement theory as a framework of analysis for engagement with medical volunteers. It shows how the medical profession contains characteristics that make it highly suitable as a basis for the creation of a 'collective participation identity' driving medical voluntarism. In the second part of the paper, I illustrate the merits of this approach, by presenting the findings of a systematic analysis into the evolving interpretation of medical neutrality among Egyptian health workers, who provided medical assistance to injured protesters in the Egyptian uprising (2011-2013). In-depth interviews with 24 medical and non-medical volunteers on their perception of medical neutrality were matched with their mobilization and participation history. This allowed for an exploration of the extent towards which political considerations influenced their voluntary medical engagement. I firstly show that revolutionary political considerations played a central role in the health workers' mobilization into medical networks active in the protests, as well as in the interpretation of their medical and non-medical activities, and adherence to humanitarian principles. .
PeriodJun 2018
Event titleMapping Morality in Global Health
Event typeConference
LocationCambridge, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute