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The mediation of humanitarianism: towards a research framework

Orgad, Shani and Seu, Bruna (2014) The mediation of humanitarianism: towards a research framework. Communication, Culture and Critique, 7 (1). pp. 6-36. ISSN 1753-9129

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The role of mediated narratives and images of distant suffering in cultivating moral response has provoked lively debate within and outside academia. In particular, since the mid-1990s, in the light of “uncivil wars” and the “crisis of humanitarianism”, studies have sought to address the apparent gap between the mediation of humanitarianism – the intense visibility of humanitarian disasters and distant suffering in the globally mediated space – and the lack of commensurate response - action to alleviate that suffering, specifically by western publics. The paper examines existing research in this area, identifying two central strands, namely philosophically-oriented accounts and empirical studies of text, audience and production. The discussion evaluates their contributions, limitations and lacunas. Based on this critical review, we suggest a research framework that simultaneously builds on and departs from existing work and can help to expand and strengthen a programme of research on the mediation of humanitarianism. This framework highlights the importance of: (1) studying mediated humanitarianism as a multi-sited dialectical process; (2) moving away from prescriptive normativity to studying how the mediation of humanitarianism is experienced, affected and negotiated; and (3) “undoing” despair as the motivation and consequent impulse of critique of the mediation of humanitarianism.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 International Communication Association
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2013 12:03

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