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Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute

Cultures of Humanitarianism

The cultures of humanitarianism strand is interested in the way that humanitarian interventions, practices and experiences are narrated, represented and performed.

It is concerned with theatre and arts projects from sites of war and disaster as well as settings of urban violence, and also the way that events are mediated more broadly to different international audiences - through writing, film, and news broadcasting.

Representations of humanitarianism

Lisbon War Art

It is also focused on how humanitarianism has been narrated and represented over time, and how those modes of representation function within the global order.

It is particularly concerned with how humanitarianism appears beyond the sites of disaster and interacts with the political and cultural practices in states in, for example, Europe and North America.

This includes work on celebrity humanitarianism and humanitarian campaigns more generally, including past campaigns, and how these representations in turn affect the delivery of aid and conflict response.

Project work

Current and past research projects include the In Place of War project (funded by the AHRC 2004-2007, the Leverhulme Trust 2009-2011 and the AHRC 2012/13) that has developed and analysed theatre and performance initiatives in war zones since 2004 and won the Times Higher Education ‘Excellence and Innovation in the Arts’ Award 2010.

Another strand of research is concerned with the wider linkages between Capitalism, Democracy and Celebrity Advocacy and connects to work conducted at the Institute for Development Policy and Management at the University of Manchester led by Dan Brockington.


Peter Gatrell, Rubina Jasani, Tanja Müller, Bertrand Taithe and James Thompson.

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PhD candidates

Amanda McCorkindale, Christine Cassar, Mateja Celestina, Miriam Jakel and Victoria Bigg.

Key publications and resources

  • In Place of War Project
  • Capitalism, Democracy and Celebrity Advocacy
  • Gatrell, Peter (2011) Free World? The Campaign to Save the World’s Refugees, 1956-1963. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Müller, Tanja R. (2013) The Ethiopian Famine Revisited: Band Aid and the Antipolitics of Celebrity Humanitarian Action. Disasters, 37(1): 61-79. 
  • Thompson, James (2011) Humanitarian Performance and the Asian Tsunami. TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies 55(1)(T209): 70-83.
  • Thompson, James; Hughes, Jenny; and Balfour, Michael (2009) Performance In Place of War. Calcutta/Chicago: Seagull Press/University of Chicago Press.