Malawi’s Orphans: The Role of Transnational Humanitarian Organizations

  • Andrea FreidusEmail author
  • Anne Ferguson


Emerging literature on the new humanitarianism, presented in this chapter, provides a lens to consider the work of transnational orphan care organizations. We draw on this literature to examine the images and discourses transnational orphan care organizations in Malawi use to enlist support for their endeavors. These include the websites, picture galleries, fund-raisers, and volunteer tours of orphanages that they purposely construct, using sentiments of compassion in order to enlist international contributors and volunteers in their activities. Our study draws upon research conducted during 2006 and 2008 in Malawi and the United States (USA).


Illegal Immigrant Rural Village Vulnerable Child International Adoption Bare Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Agamben, G. (1995). Homo sacer: Sovereign power and bare life. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, T., & Styan, D. (2000). A right to interfere? Bernard Koucher and the new humanitarianism. Journal of International Development, 12, 825–842.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  4. Arendt, H. (1990). On revolution. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.Google Scholar
  5. Bornstein, E. (2001). Child sponsorship, evangelism, and belonging in the work of World Vision Zimbabwe. American Ethnologist, 28(3), 595–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bornstein, E. (2005). The spirit of development: Protestant NGOS, morality, and economics in Zimbabwe. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC]. Father questions Madonna adoption [Electronic document]. Retrieved October 22, 2006 from
  8. Christensen, P., & Prout, A. (2005). Anthropological and sociological perspectives on the study of children. In S. Greene & D. Hogan (Eds.), Researching children’s experience: Approaches and methods (pp. 42–60). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Conroy, A. C., Blackie, M. J., Whiteside, A., Malewezi, J. C., & Sachs, J. (2006). Poverty, AIDS and hunger: Breaking the poverty trap in Malawi. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Macrae, J. (2000). Humanitarianism: Facing new challenges. Great Decisions, 8, 87–96.Google Scholar
  11. Malkki, L. (1996). Speechless emissaries: Refugees, humanitarianism, and dehistoricization. Cultural Anthropology, 11(3), 377–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Manzo, K. (2008). Imagining humanitarianism: NGO identity and the iconography of childhood. Antipode, 40(4), 632–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Meintjes, H., & Giese, S. (2006). Spinning the epidemic: The making of mythologies of orphanhood in the context of AIDS. Childhood, 13(3), 407–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Government of Malawi (GoM) (2005). National plan of action for orphans and vulnerable children 2005–2009. The Republic of Malawi Government Document, prepared by the National Taskforce for Orphans and Vulnerable Children.
  15. Nguyen, V.-K. (2009). Government by exception: Enrolment and experimentality in mass HIV treatment programmes in Africa. Social Theory and Health, 7(3), 196–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Pandolfi, M. (2003). Contract of mutual (in)difference: Governance and humanitarian apparatus in Albania and Kosovo. Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, 10(1), 369–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Redfield, P. (2005). Doctors, borders, and life in crisis. Cultural Anthropology, 20(3), 328–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Sharra, S. (2006). From material girl to spiritual mom: Madonna, Malawi, and Baby David. Posted Tuesday, October 16, 2006 at Accessed June 10, 2010.
  19. Slate Magazine. (2007). Save the (celebrity) children! African family adopts Briteny’s kids. Retrieved from Accessed May 5, 2011.
  20. Subbarao, K., & Coury, D. (2004). Reaching out to Africa’s orphans: A framework for public action. Washington, DC: The World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ticktin, M. (2006). Where ethics and politics meet: The violence of humanitarianism in France. American Ethnologist, 33(1), 33–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. United Nations [UN]. (2000). Convention on the rights of the child: Malawi (pp. 1–82). United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Electronic document, Accessed May 5, 2011.Google Scholar
  23. United Nations AIDS [UNAIDS]. (2004). Malawi: Country situation analysis. Retrieved from Accessed May 5, 2011.
  24. United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF]. (2006). Malawi’s children: The missing face of AIDS. Lilongwe: UNICEF Malawi. Retrieved from Accessed May 5, 2011.
  25. Zelizer, V. A. (1985). Pricing the priceless child: The changing social value of children. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.James Madison CollegeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Anthropology and Center for Gender in Global ContextMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

Personalised recommendations