Communicating during humanitarian medical crises : the consequences of silence or 'témoignage'
Marouf Hasian Jr.
London : Lexington Books, 2019
294 p. ; 23 cm
Bibliographies. - Index
This book provides readers with a nuanced study of what happens when historical and 21st century medical humanitarian communities, armed with their idealistic rhetorics, choose whether to speak out or remain silent during various military or medical crises. The author uses a series of case studies from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century to illustrate the politicized nature of these decisions. Unlike some that focus on the prescriptive need to follow certain universal medical humanitarian principles during crises, this book highlights the precarious nature of what some scholars call “medical advocacy/witnessing” or what the French call “témoignage.” The author argues that regardless of whether we are talking about lack of action during colonial crises or the Holocaust, it is oftentimes the lack of political will that determines how like “neutrality” or “impartiality” are interpreted. The book also acquaints readers with some of the challenges that have been recently posed to the “new” humanitarian Doctors Without Borders personnel, who have witnessed the targeting of medical hospitals and clinics. What researchers call the weaponization of medical care affects many in need living in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, or Syria. The author concludes the book by underscoring the point that it is the presence or absence of political will, and not the inherent epistemic value of medical humanitarian principles, that dictates when this advocacy succeeds or fails.