Targeting the poor

In her book On Photography, Susan Sontag draws the comparison between the language of photography and the language of warfare. To get someone in range and shoot them could be said of using a gun or a camera. There is a violence about taking a photo.

It is years since I read it but it’s a wonderful little book. I was wondering the other day if a similar comparison can be drawn between the language of war and of humanitarianism.

In the aid world, we speak of ‘targeting’ certain areas or people for our ‘interventions’: we ‘target the poor,’ making the ‘indirect beneficiaries’ of our projects sound like collateral damage.

In Afghanistan in particular, we use the language of the military to describe the world around us: talk of AOGs and IEDs in RC-E as common as BP5s or PRAs. (I’ve been meaning to try and write a pastiche of all these bloody acronyms we use.)

Can anybody out there think of any more examples?

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4 Responses to “Targeting the poor”

  1. ash Says:

    WOW…what an opening. Going to have to think this one through…more to come

  2. safrang Says:

    great idea. i look forward to reading what you come up with. here are some more that i struggle with on a daily basis. also that’s a lovely quote from a lovely woman -sontag on the inherent violence in the act of taking photos.

    operation (aid/project operation, military operation), mobilization (community mobilization, resource mobilization, troop mobilization), risk mitigation, surgical ‎‎(e.g. survey methodologies, operations), survey (recon, PRA), outreach, penetrate (enemy lines, rural areas), task team, exit strategy (iraq, or a livelihoods project), ‎contingency plan…

  3. harryrud Says:

    Safrang, those are great. I knew there were more…

  4. ash Says:

    i posted my thoughts from the opening quote in my own blog and linked yours

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