Home > Centre for the Study of Human Rights > Events > 2011 > Representing Atrocity: Distant Suffering and the Politics of Pity

Representing Atrocity: Distant Suffering and the Politics of Pity

  • Date and time: Wednesday 16 February 2011, 6.30- 8pm
  • Venue: Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, LSE
    Speakers: Professor Lilie Chouliaraki; Professor Stjepan Mestrovic; Dr Irene Bruna Seu.
  • Chair: Dr Claire Moon


Lilie ChouliarakiAtrocities and the suffering of distant strangers have become spectacles. The appeals of humanitarian and human rights campaigns create a new 'politics of pity' that transforms the way we think about our moral responsibility for distant suffering. In a parallel way, the spectacle of atrocity and the humanitarian appeal manifest a regime of visuality that displaces politics, time, global moral responsibility. How has the relationship between knowing about atrocity and engaging it morally, politically and in recognition of the fullness of its history become instead a relation mediated by spectacle? What does this tell us about the connection between representations of distant suffering and the limitations of humanitarian action? Would other kinds of representational strategies incite different kinds of action? And what is the responsibility of the spectator of distant suffering to act on what they see?

These areas will be explored by a distinguished panel of scholars and practitioners whose work has directly confronted the historical incarnations of pity, the representations of distant suffering, and the relation between knowing and acting.


Lilie Chouliaraki is Professor of Media and Communications at LSE

Stjepan Mestrovic is Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University

Irene Bruna Seu is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London.

Claire Moon (chair) is Lecturer in the Sociology of Human Rights in the Department of Sociology and the Centre for the Study of Human Rights. Dr Moon convenes the Centre's cross-disciplinary 'Atrocity, Suffering and Human Rights' research group.

Event Recording

An audio recording of this panel event is available on the Centre's podcast page.