Lauren Carruth's Love and Liberation tells a new kind of humanitarian story. The protagonists are not volunteers from afar but rather Somali locals caring for each other: nurses, aid workers, policymakers, drivers, community health workers, and bureaucrats. The contributions of locals are often taken for granted, and the competencies, aspirations, and effectiveness of local staffers frequently remain muted or absent from the planning and evaluation of humanitarian interventions structured by outsiders. Relief work is traditionally imagined as politically neutral and impartial, and interventions are planned as temporary, extraordinary, and distant.
Carruth provides an alternative vision of what "humanitarian" response means in practice—not driven by International Humanitarian Law, the missions of Western relief organizations, or trends in the aid industry or academia but instead by what Somalis call samafal. Samafal is structured by the cultivation of lasting relationships of care, interdependence, kinship, and ethnic solidarity. Samafal is also explicitly political and potentially emancipatory: humanitarian responses present opportunities for Somalis to begin to redress histories of colonial partitions and to make the most out of their political and economic marginalization. By centering Love and Liberation around Somalis' understanding and enactments of samafal, Carruth offers a new perspective on politics and intervention in Africa.