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ABSTRACT

In this article, I examine the transition from charitable assistance to a professional model of humanitarianism in one American Lutheran agency that emerged from colonial missions to Madagascar. The agency, “International Health Mission” (IHM), primarily supplies medical technologies to Lutheran clinics in Madagascar, Tanzania, and Cameroon. I argue that popular material devices of relief provision, such as handmade bandages, tie the Christian humanitarian project to older notions of Lutheran faith as caregiving and pose special challenges to the bureaucratic model of aid delivery espoused by IHM. Casting renewed scholarly attention on materiality sheds light on the unique dilemmas facing faith-based aid agencies that strategically merge political discourses of humanitarianism with religious motivations for their work. [humanitarianism, caregiving, materiality, Christianity]