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A female genealogy of humanitarian action: compassion as a practice in the work of Josephine Butler, Florence Nightingale and Sarah Monod

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Published in Medicine, conflict, and survival. 2020, vol. 36, no. 1, p. 19-40
Abstract Taking the Second Conference of the International Abolitionist Federation as a starting point, this article reconstructs a female genealogy of humanitarian action by shedding light on the transnational connections established by Josephine Butler, Florence Nightingale and Sarah Monod between the aboli- tionist cause against the state regulation of prostitution and the nursing move- ment. By using gender and emotion histories as the main methodologies, their letters, journals and drawings are analysed in order to question their alleged natural compassion towards the unfortunate by examining this emotion as a practice performed according to gender, class, religious and ethnic differences. As an expression of maternal imperialism, this essentialist vision provided them with an agency while taking care of victims. However, Butler, Nightingale and Monod’s care did not only work in complicity with late-nineteenth century British and French Empires, as it frequently came into conflict with the decisions taken by male authorities, such as those represented by politicians, military officials and physicians. By carefully looking at the conformation of their sub- jectivities through their written and visual documents, their compassion ulti- mately appears more as a tactic, for asserting their very different stances concerning Western women’s role in society, than as an authentically experi- enced emotion.
Keywords Gender and women’s historyPost-colonial studiesHistory of emotionsInternationalAbolitionist FederationHistory of nursingHistory of humanitarian relief
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PMID: 31992071
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Research group Women Humanitari@ns (992)
Project FNS: 170484
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(ISO format)
MARTIN MORUNO, Dolorès. A female genealogy of humanitarian action: compassion as a practice in the work of Josephine Butler, Florence Nightingale and Sarah Monod. In: Medicine, conflict, and survival, 2020, vol. 36, n° 1, p. 19-40. doi: 10.1080/13623699.2020.1719582 https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:129991

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Deposited on : 2020-02-04

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