The Book


Aid in Danger: The Perils and Promise of Humanitarianism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014)

A new book by Larissa Fast

Humanitarian aid workers increasingly remain present in contexts of violence and are injured, kidnapped, and killed as a result. Since 9/11 and in response to these dangers, aid organizations have fortified themselves to shield their staff and programs from outside threats. Aid in Danger explores why aid workers are attacked, kidnapped, and killed around the world and critically examines how aid agencies respond to these dangers. It addresses a timely and neglected topic, providing a unique analytical perspective on broader issues of humanitarianism and humanitarian reform.


“Much has been written about the security threats to aid workers and their heroism in the face of adversity; most of it is anecdotal and apocryphal. Fast has produced one of the very few evidence-based, well-researched, and eminently readable studies of the field. This should be on the ‘must read’ list of every researcher, head of operations, and security director working with humanitarian aid in conflict zones.”
—Peter Walker, Feinstein International Center, Tufts University

“Larissa Fast critiques familiar characterizations of the aid environment and delivers a nuanced analysis of the real dangers within the contemporary humanitarian context. She makes a compelling case that a relational, humanity-based approach to thinking about security will generate behavior and outcomes more consistent with the principles on which humanitarianism rests. This is a book that should be read by students and scholars of aid as well as by practitioners.”
—Deborah Avant, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

“In this new book, University of Notre Dame professor Larissa Fast tackles the important question of what leads to violence against humanitarian aid workers. Although authored by an academic, the book rests on an extensive database compiled by the author during her decades-long experience conducting research on humanitarian issues. Fast’s argument is that while most explanations of violence against humanitarians tend to look into factors external to aid workers—depicted as a special category of civilians—the answer is also to be looked for in their everyday decisions and human weaknesses as they deal with people in need on the ground.”
—Jérémie Labbé, IPI Research Fellow for Humanitarian Affairs, writing for the IPI Global Observatory

Visit Penn Press’s website to order and learn more about the book

August 19, 2014 Book launch at ODI in London