Research - Papers to the International Workshop Mediation in Migration Governance
On mediation and brokerage in humanitarian action and migration governance
Evthymios Papataxiarchis (Univ. of the Aegean)
This paper introduces a brief theoretical framework on mediation and brokerage in humanitarian settings
and more generally in migration. It is inspired by my ethnographic experience on the humanitarian
mobilization and the establishment of the humanitarian regime in Aegean Greece during the ‘European
refugee crisis’ and based on a review of the relevant literature on mediation in anthropology and the
social sciences. The following text is a working document that aims to clear the theoretical ground for the
Human(c)ity project. In this respect it does not include a comprehensive argument, but it is rather built
around a set of points which I hope will encourage some further thinking around a set of questions about
mediation and brokerage in humanitarian action. For example, what are humanitarian mediation and
brokerage, in theory and, in actual practice, on the ground? Which cultural logics inform the practice and
the subsequent organization of humanitarian mediation? What kind of resources are mobilized through
mediation, by what kind of actors and to what effect? How do mediators and brokers account for their
mediating activities? How are the mediating activities perceived by the involved parties as well as by
outsiders? What is the impact of mediation on humanitarian management and how is it related to the
type, the subject, and the logic of mediation?
Here, I argue that the critical rethinking of mediation and brokerage and their employment in our ethnographic work can be very productive in approaching some key dimensions of humanitarian management and humanitarian governance such as relief, protection in its multiple dimensions, and integration. It particularly allows the ethnographic grasp of features of humanitarian action in the context of the recent ‘European refugee crisis’, such as the multifarious production of connections, networks and assemblages in the course of humanitarianization, the wide spread of initiatives of different kinds and the circulation of meaning in translation, features that have impressed me as particularly interesting, not to say intellectually exciting. It also offers a window to approach the impact of humanitarian action in relation to the wider processes of globalization in the context of which humanitarianization takes place. In one word, I believe that the analytical emphasis on mediation is ethnographically promising, and that brokerage is good to think with.
My reading of the relevant social science literature is not exhaustive but rather eclectic. It is guided, to a certain extent, by the research interests that dominate Human(c)ity. Based on my current understanding of this literature I could briefly distinguish two main areas or research on mediation. On the one hand, there is an older literature on mediation and brokerage in the domain of (humanitarian) development and migration. On the other hand, there is a more recent research trend about mediation in humanitarian relief in ‘Third World’ countries. In one part of this recent literature mediation is approached as an ingredient of NGO action that does not deserve special treatment. Another part gives special attention to the role of intermediaries in the realization of humanitarian projects. Also this upcoming literature on mediation and brokerage in humanitarian relief increasingly includes works on Europe.
File: On mediation and brokerage in humanitarian action and migration governance
The research project was supported by the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (H.F.R.I.) under the “First Call for H.F.R.I. Research Projects to support Faculty members and Researchers and the procurement of high-cost research equipment grant” (Project Number: HFRI-FM17-67)