Keynote Speakers

Post-humanitarianism. The contemporary politics of solidarity

Professor Lilie Chouliaraki (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Author of The Ironic Spectator: Solidarity in the Age of Post-humanitarianism (2013) and The Spectatorship of Suffering (2006/2011)

In this lecture, I discuss historical change in the communication of solidarity, within the fields of human rights and humanitarian communication. To this end, I present a typology of forms of solidarity, dominant in the past 50 years, and focus, in particular, on a new form, what I call a ‘post-humanitarian’ solidarity, which tends to focus on ‘us’ rather than distant sufferers as the moral source for action on their suffering. Drawing on specific examples of this emerging form of solidarity, I explore its key features and reflect on its moral and political implications.


Humanitarian Narratives – missing out on the politics?

Professor Suzanne Franks (City University London)

Author of Reporting Disasters – Famine, Aid, Politics and the Media (2013)

The origins of humanitarian media coverage as a distinctive genre extends back into the nineteenth century originating as a particular way of engaging audiences and communicating suffering. Western media reporting of disasters in faraway countries (especially in Africa)  has developed a template which means that this type of coverage often fails to take account of political circumstances. Frequently the journalism relies upon familiar stereotypes – using frames such as ‘faraway suffering’,  ‘primitive tribal hatreds’ or resorting to explanations based upon ‘natural disaster,’ when there are in fact complex underlying social and political causes to many crises and complex emergencies. This presentation will analyse the way that so called ‘humanitarian reporting’ has failed to take account of political explanations with reference to key case studies and explain why this is a matter of vital concern.  In particular it will highlight the powerful and consciously apolitical position of international aid agencies and examine the many layered and interrelated factors which contribute to the absence of political analysis in the way that distant crises are described and understood.


‘Telegenically dead Palestinians’: Cinema, News Media and Perception Management of the Gaza conflicts

Dr. Shohini Chaudhuri (University of Essex)

Author of Cinema of the Dark Side: Atrocity and the Ethics of Film Spectatorship (2014)

During the 2014 Israeli bombardment of Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in response to a perceived shift in international media coverage of the conflict, accused Hamas of using ‘telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause’. Aided by social media reporting from Palestinians inside the war zone, this recent media stance on the conflict has played out through images of dead and injured Palestinian children and disturbed Israel’s attempts to justify its actions with humanitarian claims. Netanyahu’s abhorrent phrase gives renewed significance to what Paul Virilio calls the ‘logistics of perception’ – that a ‘war of pictures and sounds’ accompanies conflicts and shapes our attitudes towards state violence as just or unjust.

This paper will explore relationships between news media and filmic representations of the conflict, including: Waltz with Bashir (2008), an Israeli coproduction about the 1982 Lebanon War whose release coincided with the 2008-9 Gaza conflict; Where Should the Birds Fly (2013), a Gazan documentary about the 2008-9 conflict; British news presenter Jon Snow’s video blog upon from his return from Gaza in July 2014; and The Honourable Woman, a BBC drama screened at the time of the 2014 conflict. Arguing that audiovisual strategies constitute means of ‘perception management’ (a term I adopt from Mark Curtis), the paper shows how the media orientate our feelings towards the conflict by aiding in either the dehumanization of the ‘enemy’ or constructing Palestinians as objects of humanitarian appeal and (more rarely) as active subjects. It thereby probes the role of humanitarian images in our understanding of the conflict.