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My research looks at the Near East Foundation (NEF) from 1930 to 1979, exploring the rural education programs carried out in the Near East. Its predecessor, the Near East Relief (NER), provided assistance in former Ottoman territories after WWI. The epigraph above serves as an illustration of US sentiment towards the organization's work as its days of relief were almost phased out (like NER) and programs shifted to scientific philanthropy, addressing the underlying rural problems of poverty, pestilence, and ignorance. The story of the NEF is one of survival and relevance where it began by drawing on ideas of domestic philanthropy such as the Jeanes Fund, the General Education Board, and the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease. These philanthropies' collective goals of education, health, and sanitation expansion into the US South formed the basic idea of reform. Additionally, the NEF drew on the Phelps-Stokes Fund's early expertise in transferring ideas of educating African Americans in the US South to expanding education in "primitive" situations in Africa. Collectively, these US organizations became a model for how NEF reimagined "primitive" Near East villages from Greece to Persia and eventually throughout the eastern hemisphere.
International Refugee Relief on the Caucasus Front, 1915-16: Perspectives from the Rockefeller Archive CenterJuly 12, 2021
Humanitarian relief in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide is now frequently referred to by historians as a watershed moment in the history of humanitarianism. Keith Watenpaugh has suggested that the efforts of the American Near East Relief (NER), coming to the rescue of surviving Armenians in the aftermath of war and genocide, were representative of a shift to a distinctive "modern" form of humanitarianism. Others have drawn upon the Armenian case to suggest that the shifts in humanitarian relief occurring around this time were more uneven. Rebecca Jinks, for example, draws attention to the way racialised and gendered colonial discourses shaped responses to displaced Armenian women. The wave of scholarship connecting the Armenian Genocide to histories of humanitarianism has thus far focused on interventions in the former Ottoman territories of the Middle East (in particular, the French mandates of Syria and Lebanon). In contrast, the response to the hundreds of thousands of Armenian refugees who fled to the Russian imperial territories of Transcaucasia (the South Caucasus) during and in the aftermath of war and genocide remains relatively less well understood.
In October 1950, Edward C. Miller and Halsey B. Knapp, both finance officers for the philanthropic Near East Foundation (NEF), embarked on a three-month tour of the Middle East. Founded in 1915 as a direct response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the Armenian Genocide, Near East Relief (as it was then known) had gained an international reputation for its humanitarian and relief programmes. But by 1930, it transformed itself into the Near East Foundation from, in the words of Keith David Watenpaugh, "an ad hoc food relief organization to…a bureaucratized, multidisciplinary, nongovernmental 'development' organization.'" During their travels, Miller and Knapp examined the multitude of agricultural, education, and sanitation programmes operated by the NEF in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Greece. Their goal was to seek an answer to the question: "What is the present standing of the Near East Foundation?"
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