Empathic Humanitarianism: Understanding the Motivations behind Humanitarian Work with Migrants at the US–Mexico Border

Ricardo Gomez, Bryce Clayton Newell, and Sara Vannini
Date of Publication: 
January, 2020
Source Organization: 

The growing numbers of vulnerable migrants seeking shelter and refuge in the United States and Europe are finding increased racism and xenophobia as well as renewed efforts by humanitarian volunteers to offer them aid, sanctuary, and protection. This article sets forth a typology to better understand the motivations of volunteers working to help migrants in need of humanitarian assistance. Why do people go out of their way to offer humanitarian aid to someone they do not know and, in some cases, they will never meet? What are the drivers of altruistic behavior of humanitarian volunteers in the face of rising injustice, nationalism, and xenophobia?

In answer to these questions, we offer a typology centered on empathic concern, differentiating secular/faith-based motivations, and deontological/moral-virtue motivations, with particular behaviors in each of the four resulting categories: the Missionary Type, the Good Samaritan Type, the Do Gooder Type, and the Activist Type. We also suggest four additional self-centered (non-altruistic, or not-other-centered) types (Militant, Crusader, Martyr, and Humanitarian Tourist).

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Gomez, R., Newell, B. C., & Vannini, S. (2020). Empathic humanitarianism: Understanding the motivations behind humanitarian work with migrants at the US–Mexico Border. Journal on Migration and Human Security 1(13). Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2331502419900764