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Keywords:

  • [humanitarianism;
  • neoliberalism;
  • citizenship and claims-making;
  • refugees]

ABSTRACT

This article draws from fieldwork conducted with the staff, volunteers and recipients of programs run by NGOs in Morrumbala, a rural district in central Mozambique. During the Mozambican conflict in the 1980s and early 1990s, a majority of district residents lived in refugee camps in Malawi. This article explores how recipients and volunteers draw on nostalgic memories of humanitarian experience in Malawi to critique and make claims on the humanitarian regimes that now provide services in Morrumbala. Anthropological literature has shown that refugee experience can be central to processes of political subjectification, becoming the grounds through which claims are articulated on neoliberal regimes of rights and services. These memories, and the nostalgic humanitarian lexicon they deploy, point to the historicity of humanitarian experience. As Morrumbala residents engage new configurations of aid and welfare today, the afterlives of previous interventions also allow for ambivalent and critical engagements with humanitarian practice in the present.