Personal profile

Overview

I recently received my PhD qualification in History from the University of Galway, having passed my viva (defence) examination with no corrections. My thesis utilised a comparative approach to analyse the impact of French and British political cultures on Medecins Sans Frontieres and Oxfam's approaches to ethical humanitarian action in the 1980s. Through three case-studies (the Cambodian crisis following the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the Ethiopian famine 1984-1985, and the Salvadoran refugee crisis in Honduras), I examined the practical evolution of humanitarian norms in this decade, and interrogated the forces that shaped how Western NGOs engaged with human rights discourse during the Cold War.

My new position at HCRI in the University of Manchester allows me to follow the thread of this research into the 1990s and 2000s, and to broaden my focus from individual NGOs to humanitarian medicine as a whole. This role will produce research that is directly relevant to current humanitarian policy discussions, and will involve working alongside representatives from MSF's internal research department, CRASH.

Biography

I hold a BA qualification in History and French from Trinity College Dublin and an MA in International Relations from University College Dublin. Through an erasmus semester spent in Paris, and a summer spent interning with a Rwandan development NGO in Kigali, I developed a keen interest in the intersections between European (post-) colonial histories and the emergence of the modern humanitarian sector. 

Seeking to explore these issues in more depth, I began my PhD research at the University of Galway. Working under the supervision of Dr. Kevin O'Sullivan, I completed a thesis that examined 'NGOs as national political actors during the Cold War'. Emplying a national comparative approach, the research contextualised Oxfam and MSF's programmes and policy outlooks in the 1980s within French and British political cultures. 

Research interests

I am interested in the specific social and cultural backgrounds which have informed the elaboration of 'universal' humanitarian and human rights norms. In my PhD thesis, the polarised instrumentalisation of human rights discourse during the Cold War was a core theme. In my current role on the 'Developing Humanitarian Medicine' project, I look at different aspects of the historical evolution of humanitarian medicine, including the development of global logistics capacities, standardisation and clinical norms.

Methodological knowledge

I have experience working in both institutional and government archives, and have also conducted oral history interviews with humanitarian practitioners.

Qualifications

I hold a PhD in History from the University of Galway, where I passed my viva/ thesis defence with no corrections in August 2023. I also hold an MA in International Relations from University College Dublin.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Letters, NGOs as National Political Actors During the Cold War: A Comparison of Médecins Sans Frontières and Oxfam’s Humanitarian Programmes in the Global South, 1979-1988, National University of Ireland-Galway

20182023

Award Date: 21 Aug 2023

Areas of expertise

  • D204 Modern History
  • Humanitarian History
  • NGOs
  • Modern British history
  • Modern French history

Keywords

  • Humanitarian medicine
  • NGOs
  • Humanitarian history
  • Political culture
  • International aid
  • Humanitarianism
  • Non-governmental organisations

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