Horror, abjection and compassion: from Dunant to compassion fatigue

Autumn 2007

Taithe examines the practices of compassion throughout history and suggests their entanglement with the humanitarian narratives that have sustained them. Both emerged in the nineteenth century and have subsequently structured experimentation in the field of semiotics of emotion and the development of humanitarian ideals. With the support of French empirical examples, this article traces the progression of these ideas in Europe since the publication of “Un Souvenir de Solférino” in 1864, suggesting the development of a moral economy of humanitarian love and its quasi-metaphysical dead end in compassion fatigue.

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