MC429 Half Unit
Humanitarian Communication: vulnerability, discourse and power
This information is for the 2018/19 session.
Dr Samuel Mejias
This course is available on the MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and Fudan), MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and UCT), MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and USC), MSc in Media, Communication and Development and MSc in Strategic Communications. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.
Today more than ever, images and narratives of vulnerable people in zones of disaster, violence and conflict routinely populate everyday lives in the West. Taking our starting point on these images and narratives produced by a number of actors (NGOs, journalists, citizens, militants or regular armies) and appearing in a large number of digital platforms (NGO websites, news networks, social media and celebrity advocacy), we explore the changing practices of humanitarian communication in the 21st century – broadly understood to encompass disaster communication and conflict reporting (but also increasingly human rights appeals). We do so by addressing questions such as: What are the histories of humanitarian communication? How is it changing today and why? What are the tensions and dilemmas that organizations face as they struggle to communicate the plight of distant others? What kind of politics of visibility and voice is played out in the mediation of distant suffering? Which ethical norms inform the digital narratives and spectacles of vulnerable others in those zones? And finally, which are the challenges of 21st century humanitarian communication and can we do it better?
To explore these issues, the course adopts an interdisciplinary and case-based approach that enables students both to debate the theoretical links between vulnerability, discourse and power and to reflect on concrete examples of the communication of humanitarian messages and conflict news today. The course consists of three parts: the politics of mediating distant suffering; humanitarian communication in disaster zones; conflict reporting in ‘humanitarian’ wars.
10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.
Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.
All students are expected to complete advance reading, prepare reading-based seminar presentations, and submit one essay of 1,500 words.
1. Boltanski L. (1999) Distant Suffering: Morality, Politics and the Media, CUP
2. Barnett M. and Weiss T. (2008) Humanitarianism in Question. Politics, Power, Ethics Cornell University Press
3. Chouliaraki L. (2013) The Ironic Spectator. Solidarity in the Age of Post-humanitarianism Cambridge: Polity
4. Cohen, S. (2001). States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering, London: Polity
5. Richey, LA and Ponte, S (2011). Brand Aid Shopping Well to Save the World, University of Minnesota Press
6. Hoskins A. and O’Loughlin B. (2010) War and Media Cambridge: Polity
7. Butler J. (2009) Frames of War London: Verso
Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Department: Media & Communications
Total students 2017/18: Unavailable
Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable
Controlled access 2017/18: No
Value: Half Unit
Personal development skills
- Team working
- Problem solving
- Application of information skills