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Engaging the humanitarian marketplace: values, valuations and the making of humanitarian geographies

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jane Midgley



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This paper argues that humanitarian procurement and supply activities create geographies that are underpinned by valuations and the various values these arrange. The paper draws from interviews with global procurement, commodity and supply-chain leads for European and North American humanitarian organizations providing emergency humanitarian assistance and development programming as to how they engage with values and valuations in their professional practice. The paper draws from economic sociology and its focus on valuation as a situated social process to explore how different values are recognized, negotiated and ordered within humanitarian procurement and supply practices. By paying attention to reflections on self-described practice we can see the importance of standard procurement principles in accommodating different values, economic and normative, and how these organize market arrangements for different goods and services. This approach crucially allows for the possibility for new values to be accommodated (such as sustainability). It also shows the conflicts and strains that arise when existing processes and arrangements that have been legitimised by practice are questioned, namely through the localisation agenda and its reimagining of the values which underpin the flow and control of resources and the challenges this can make to international humanitarian arrangements and the sector’s colonial legacy. The paper prompts further thought as to what values will continue to resonate in the sector and which new values will be realised through procurement and supply decisions in the future. The paper highlights the importance of thinking with values and valuation processes in the making of humanitarian geographies. By extension, this highlights the importance of diverse theoretical bases for understanding value and valuation as a critical geographical practice.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Midgley J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning F

Year: 2023

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 14/04/2023

Acceptance date: 22/02/2023

Date deposited: 01/03/2023

ISSN (print): 2634-9825

ISSN (electronic): 2634-9825

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/26349825231163142


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