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Permanent URL to this publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.5167/uzh-64078

Korf, Benedikt (2007). Antinomies of generosity: moral geographies and post-tsunami aid in Southeast Asia. Geoforum, 38(2):366-378.

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The Indian Ocean Tsunami on Boxing Day 2004 generated a wave of private donations from Western countries – a paradigmatic case of generosity. However, more than a year after, a number of evaluation studies conclude that post-tsunami aid has achieved ambivalent results and that recipients of aid felt excluded from the reconstruction process, reduced to passive observers. This paper argues that there is a link between the abundance of generosity and the practices of aid: the practices of gift giving after the tsunami have developed a humiliating force for those who were at the recipient end of the gift chain, because the marketing of Western generosity by media and aid agencies reinforced those affected by the tsunami as ‘‘pure’’ victims, as ‘‘bare life’’ – passive recipients devoid of their status as fellow citizens on this planet. In a second step, the paper discusses the meta-ethics of these practices of generosity, thinking about the ambivalences inherent in bridging distance in encountering the ‘‘distant’’ other in our aid practices. Various forms of virtue ethics reflect this emphasis on the generous person, while neglecting the perspective of the person in need, and therefore implicitly reproduce those asymmetries of gift giving. In contrast to these conceptions, I want to argue that we need to ground our duty to help distant sufferers in their moral entitlement to be aided. This requires a meta-ethical approach that seeks a combination of a theory of justice with virtue ethics.


48 citations in Web of Science®
60 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Deposited On:15 Aug 2012 14:53
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:55
Publisher DOI:10.1016/j.geoforum.2006.09.005

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