The Great War, the child’s body and the American Red Cross

25.04.2016 (14:26)

Article by Dr. Friederike Kind-Kovács published in "European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire"

The most recent issue of the "European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire", a special issue on "Humanitarianisms in Context: Histories of Non-State Actors, from the Local to the Global", features an article written by Dr. Friederike Kind-Kovács, a Postdoc of the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies in Regensburg. The article is entitled "The Great War, the child’s body and the American Red Cross".


This article examines the child-relief activities of the American Red Cross in Hungary in the aftermath of the Great War, offering an insight into the workings of humanitarianism in interwar Europe. A close look at this one Central European ‘playground’ of transatlantic intervention helps us understand the logic and the underlying political, economic and ideological motives behind Allied humanitarian aid to ‘enemy’ children. Analysis of the ways in which the war’s aftermath affected children, their bodies and their relief throws light on the relationship between violent conflicts, children in need and humanitarian intervention. The article looks particularly at the role of the child’s damaged body and its photographic representation, making it what Cathleen Canning calls an ‘embodied experience of war’. Exploration of the humanitarian discourse around the suffering child helps us identify the humanitarian reaction to the unforeseen social consequences of wartime confrontation. The article argues that the harmed body of the ‘enemy child’ served to mobilise transnational compassion that challenged the war’s deeply anchored ‘friend–foe’ mentality. The child turned into a means of configuring and translating human suffering beyond ideological and political borders. At the same time humanitarian child relief helped to further consolidate asymmetric international power relations.


Friederike Kind-Kovács: The Great War, the child’s body and the American Red Cross, in: European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire 23 (2016), 1-2, pp. 33-62 (Website).

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