Materializing Ethical Matters of Concern: Practicing Ethics in a Refugee Camp

Frederik Matte, Nicolas Bencherki


This article explores the collective practices through which ethics is handled at the humanitarian aid organization Doctors Without Borders. As an international nongovernmental organization operating in 72 countries, many times facing extreme contexts and yet able to uphold its ethical standards, we consider that studying the practical achievement of ethics at Doctors Without Borders is an occasion to learn how workers themselves deal with it. Our analysis of ethnographic data suggests that the question of what is right or wrong is materialized through what we call ethical matters of concern. We focus on the communicative practices through which apparent individual ethical decisions are in fact collaborative in the sense that they imply people, principles, and other artifacts that substantiate organizational ethics in everyday work.


matters of concern, ethics, materiality, communicative constitution of organizations, extreme contexts

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