Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationHeidelberg, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10017
Approve DateAugust 26, 2020
Project TitleNovikov, Egor (Heidelberg U.) "The Role of Filth in International Humanitarianism"
Compassion and disgust are among the dominant emotional components of humanitarian work. While compassion is broadly promoted by humanitarian agents and criticized by scholars, disgust is mostly overlooked in both self-representation and studies of humanitarianism. Meanwhile filth and disgust impact many humanitarian encounters, making them traumatic and valuable at the same time. This project problematizes the understudied threefold bind of humanitarian work, filth and experience; and looks into how all sides of humanitarian encounters experience filth and abjection. The case in question is international humanitarian work in Kolkata – the city, often painted in the western imaginary as a capital of filth and extreme poverty. The research contains a comparative component, analyzing commonalities and differences between secular and faith-based varieties of charity through their relation to filth. While the faith-based charity organizations, working with the stigmatized individuals, tend to embrace filth as a self-cultivation resource, secular ones see it predominantly as a negative matter, which has to be neutralized and removed. The field research method will be a year-round immersive participant observation enriched with the elements self-ethnography and interviews.