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How should we understand humanitarian NGOs? In Above the Fray: The Red Cross and the Making of the Humanitarian NGO Sector (University of Chicago Press, 2020), Shai M. Dromi, a lecturer in sociology at Harvard University, uses insights from cultural sociology to reframe the history of the Red Cross. The book blends a detailed historical analysis with field theory and the strong programme in cultural sociology to show the longstanding influence of key individuals and texts, as well as accounting for influences of nationalism and Christianity. The historical analysis of the Red Cross presents crucial lessons for our current context, as well as providing the basis for comparisons with other approaches to humanitarian interventions. The book is both an excellent example of the strengths of the strong programme, along with a fascinating analysis of a key element of our modern world.

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