Studies on the emergence of humanitarian thought tend to put emphasis on the global, and often violent, spread of Western-centric ideas and practices. This perspective has provided important insights into the Christian genealogy of humanitarianism, the secular translations of its ethical foundation and processes of contemporary neo-colonial diffusion. However, more recently research on alternative humanitarian genealogies has also gained traction, focussing on overlooked forms of humanitarianism that are rooted in the religions and philosophies of non-Western societies.
In practice, humanitarian actors situated in different genealogies – often concurrently – have long interacted with each other and continue to re-translate concepts of humanitarianism, development, philanthropy and charity in the course of everyday encounters. At a historical point in time at which Muslim societies are frequently seen as sites where Western ideas and practices are violently contested, this project seeks to explore such humanitarian encounters beyond pre-conceived binaries. Attempting to contribute to a de-centring of humanitarianism, it conceptualizes Muslim humanitarianism as a non-essentialized starting point for a discussion that can lead beyond Islamic organizations and societies.
Against this backdrop, the project focuses on the following concerns:
- How does Muslim humanitarianism relate to concepts of development, philanthropy and charity, and how do Muslim institutions, networks and individuals negotiate these concepts?
- What kind of social, spatial and material transformations has Muslim humanitarianism fostered over time?
- What political and ideological positions exert influence on Muslim humanitarianism?
- How do Muslim humanitarians engage with other actors in the fields of humanitarianism, development, philanthropy and charity?
- What are the methodological implications of studying Muslim humanitarianism across time and space?