This class will look at the history of modern humanitarianism—an activity that is now a multimillion dollar industry and that the U.S. funds more than any other country in the world—and its origins in charity, philanthropy, and missions. By interspersing case studies of humanitarian endeavors with theoretical investigations into the nature of such work, we will explore the evolving relationships between private religious humanitarian groups and more public actors, forces, and institutions such as nation-states, international law, and the market. Our goals will be to dig past the fiction that humanitarianism is ever impartial (a seemingly necessary fiction that allows many institutions to do their work in conflict areas) to uncover the political dynamics of various humanitarian endeavors. In so doing, we will seek to understand how such work and the narratives we tell about it shapes our notions of the proper roles of religious groups and government, as well as how religious groups represent (and contest) U.S. power in the world.
This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.
Rosemary R. CorbettAuthor
Private College or University Institution Type
Syllabus Resource Type
Undergraduate Course, Seminar Class Type
2015 Date Published
Religious Studies Discipline
General Comparative Traditions Religous Tradition
Business/Capitalism/Labor, Class/Power, Politics/Law/Government Topics