Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Humanities

First Advisor

Annjeanette Wiese

Second Advisor

Cathy Comstock

Third Advisor

Myles Osborne

Fourth Advisor

Paul Gordon

Abstract

The industry of humanitarian aid is often ineffective at best. A collision of factors occurs for those who try to help, often complicated by feelings of compassion or guilt, preventing efforts from being directed in the most effective ways. Further, humanitarian organizations often are not aware of their Western biases, and the ways in which they demean those whom they would aid. Literature and cinema are used to examine and illustrate the effects of creating people as a separate “other,” and to look at the damage, loss of power, and misunderstanding it creates. Case studies of humanitarian organizations, using narrative analysis, demonstrate such biases and the effects that storytelling has on the treatment of human beings trapped in poverty. The case study analysis allows the public to be more consciously aware of their own biases, and suggests more effective ways of ameliorating the issues that are at play in poverty. Common misperceptions are broken down, and new ways of thinking are constructed. The practical benefit is that people will be able to apply this knowledge to their own research in order to develop more holistic, humanizing, and effective approaches to the eradication of poverty.

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