International Humanitarian Narratives of Disasters, Crises and Indigeneity
Published in: Disasters (2023). doi: 10.1111/disa.12576
Posted on rand.org Feb 22, 2023
Narratives are a means of making sense of disasters and crises. The humanitarian sector communicates stories widely, carrying with them representations of peoples and events. Such communications have been critiqued for misrepresenting and/or silencing the root causes of disasters and crises, depoliticising them. What has not been researched is how such communications represent disasters and crises in Indigenous settings. This is important because processes such as colonisation are often the root cause of disaster for Indigenous Peoples, but are typically masked in communications. We identify and characterise narratives in humanitarian communications involving Indigenous Peoples by conducting a narrative analysis of humanitarian communications. We identify five narratives: humanitarians act, attributing culpability, the people help the people, the nation tackles disaster, and innovating our way out of disaster. Narratives differ based upon how the humanitarians who produce them think disasters and crises should be governed. Most articles carved out a space for humanitarian action, whilst others focused on witnessing, reporting and responsibilising international audiences. We conclude that humanitarian communications reflect more about the relationship between the international humanitarian community and its audience than reality, and reflect on how narratives mask global processes that link audiences of humanitarian communications with Indigenous Peoples.