Fictions of Humanitarian Responsibility: Narrating Microfinance

Shameem Black*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    This article explores competing narratives of humanitarian responsibility that emerge in the digital life writings of Westerners who seek to mitigate global poverty through the American microfinance website Kiva. Using word maps to identify dominant rhetorical gestures, data analysis to detect emergent patterns, and close readings to interpret individual tone and genre, I look at a range of ways in which individuals on Kiva narrate their understanding of humanitarian motivation. In addition to conventions of an ethics of care, norms of reciprocity, and perceptions of worldliness, these digital life writings include an increasing emphasis on the responsible lender as the antiheroic, perverse subject who impersonates a responsible citizen without fully claiming or accepting full responsibility for humanitarian actions. These different modes not only work to articulate connections between givers and receivers of aid but also to seek to recalibrate the grounds of what aid givers consider their own community. These different modes offer a window into what I call the fictionalization of humanitarianism, or the way in which humanitarian responsibility constitutes a layered anthology of collaborative and competing stories.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)103-120
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Human Rights
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


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