Winner of the 2022 AMECYS Book Award, sponsored by the Association for Middle East Children and Youth Studies Association (AMECYS).
Each year, billions of dollars are spent on global humanitarian health initiatives. These efforts are intended to care for suffering bodies, especially those of distressed children living in poverty. But as global medical aid can often overlook the local economic and political systems that cause bodily suffering, it can also unintentionally prolong the very conditions that hurt children and undermine local aid givers. Investigating medical humanitarian encounters in Egypt, Paradoxes of Care illustrates how child aid recipients and local aid experts grapple with global aid's shortcomings and its paradoxical outcomes.
Rania Kassab Sweis examines how some of the world's largest aid organizations care for vulnerable children in Egypt, focusing on medical efforts with street children and out-of-school village girls. Her in-depth ethnographic study reveals how global medical aid fails to "save" these children according to its stated aims, and often maintains—or produces new—social disparities in children's lives. Foregrounding vulnerable children's responses to medical aid, Sweis moves past the unquestioned benevolence of global health to demonstrate how children must manage their own bodies and lives in the absence of adult care. With this book, she challenges readers to engage with the question of what medical caregivers and donors alike gain from such global humanitarian transactions.
About the author
Rania Kassab Sweis is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Richmond.
"Medical humanitarianism has become the most prominent form of global health intervention. Based on the ethnographic study of several projects conducted with vulnerable children in Egypt, Paradoxes of Care uncovers, with tact and discernment, the complex and ambiguous effects of these benevolent actions as experienced by local aid workers as well as young recipients."
—Didier Fassin, Institute for Advanced Study and Collège de France
"This lucidly written book brings the robust anthropological critiques of global medical humanitarianism to bear on international organizations' attempts to help children in Egypt. Rania Kassab Sweis' clear analysis demonstrates the inherent paradoxes of seeking to save the 'vulnerable,' while leaving unchanged the structural conditions that produce those very vulnerabilities."
—Sherine Hamdy, University of California, Irvine
"This vivid and groundbreaking ethnography elevates the voices of Egypt's at-risk children, while deftly portraying the struggles of humanitarian actors to deliver aid amidst precarity. Paradoxes of Care is a must-read for those interested in medical humanitarianism, gender activism, and childhood studies in the Middle East and beyond."
—Marcia C. Inhorn, Yale University
"In [Paradoxes of Care]'s detaied ethnography of three nongovernmental organizations dedicated to providing medical care and health services to Egyptian children... Sweis illuminates both the global humanitarian industry and the lives of children in Egypt."
—Lisa Anderson, Foreign Affairs
"[Paradoxes of Care] is a valuable contribution to the field of charity and medical aid and to the cross-cultural study of children. Recommended."
—M. L. Russell, CHOICE