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Doctors Without Borders: Humanitarian Quests, Impossible Dreams of Medecins Sans Frontieres

by Renee C Fox Johns Hopkins University Press
Pub Date:
04/2015
ISBN:
9781421416922
Format:
Pbk 328 pages
Price:
AU$59.99 NZ$63.47
Product Status: In Stock Now
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This study of Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) casts new light on the organization’s founding principles, distinctive culture, and inner struggles to realize more fully its "without borders" transnational vision.


 


Pioneering medical sociologist Renée C. Fox spent nearly twenty years conducting extensive ethnographic research within MSF, a private international medical humanitarian organization that was created in 1971 and awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1999.


 


With unprecedented access, Fox attended MSF meetings and observed doctors and other workers in the field. She interviewed MSF members and participants and analyzed the content of such documents as communications between MSF staff members within the offices of its various headquarters, communications between headquarters and the field, and transcripts of internal group discussions and meetings. Fox weaves these threads of information into a rich tapestry of the MSF experience that reveals the dual perspectives of an insider and an observer.


 


The book begins with moving, detailed accounts from the blogs of women and men working for MSF in the field. From there, Fox chronicles the organization’s early history and development, paying special attention to its struggles during the first decades of its existence to clarify and implement its principles. The core of the book is centered on her observations in the field of MSF’s efforts to combat a rampant epidemic of HIV/AIDS in postapartheid South Africa and the organization’s response to two challenges in postsocialist Russia: an enormous surge in homelessness on the streets of Moscow and a massive epidemic of tuberculosis in the penal colonies of Siberia. Fox’s accounts of these crises exemplify MSF’s struggles to provide for thousands of people in need when both the populations and the aid workers are in danger.


 


Enriched by vivid photographs of MSF operations and by ironic, self-critical cartoons drawn by a member of the Communications Department of MSF France, Doctors Without Borders highlights the bold mission of the renowned international humanitarian organization even as it demonstrates the intrinsic dilemmas of humanitarian action.

The Quests
Part I
1. Voices from the Field
Part II
2. Origins, Schisms, and Crises
3. "Nobel or Rebel?"
4. MSF Greece Ostracized
5. The Return of MSF Greece
Part III
6. La Mancha
Part IV
7. Struggling with HIV/ AIDS
8. In Khayelitsha
9. A "Non-Western Entity" Is Born
Part V
10. Reaching Out to the Homeless and Street Children of Moscow with Olga Shevchenko
11. Confronting TB in Siberian Prisons with Olga Shevchenko
Coda
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

"Whether you like MSF or not, and whether you already know it or not, Doctors Without Borders provides a refreshing and unusual perspective of this larger-than life organization. Without complacency, but with the candor and attention to detail a social scientist can marshal, Fox takes us backstage where MSFers breathe, agonize, exult, or fulminate to defend a complex and imperfect idea of humanitarian action."

Renée C. Fox is the Annenberg Professor Emerita of the Social Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. She is author of Experiment Perilous: Physicians and Patients Facing the Unknown, In the Belgian Château: The Spirit and Culture of a European Society in an Age of Change, and In the Field: A Sociologist's Journey and coauthor of The Courage to Fail: A Social View of Organ Transplants and Dialysis and Observing Bioethics.