Aid Relations and Aid Legitimacy: Mutual Imaging of Aid Workers and Recipients in Nepal

D. Hilhorst, L. Weijers, M. van Wessel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


This paper considers mutual imaging of aid workers and Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. Based on a theoretical perspective of aid as a socially negotiated arena, the contextual and interactionist concept of imaging is used, rather than labelling (which is done to people), or perceptions (located in one actor's head). The paper uses a Q-methodology that symmetrically researches different groups of actors by posing the same questions. Our data confirm that the distinctions between the way aid workers and recipients view themselves, each other and the aid provided were more gradual than clear-cut between categories and that the legitimacy of aid workers is not determined by the perceived quality of aid. Problems with routinised aid were not translated into negative images, whereas problems with new and irregular types of aid were. Our research indicates the importance of the interaction between implementing staff and active beneficiaries. The roles of these active volunteers and incentive workers are important but ambiguous. They may smooth the divide between aid agencies and clients, but their proximity to the aid regime may also lead to tensions. The way these roles are played out and the effect this has on imaging and aid legitimacy is an area for further research
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1439-1457
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • humanitarian
  • organizations
  • arena
  • sudan
  • zone

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