Old Questions in New Boxes: Mia Kirshner's I Live Here and the Problematics of Transnational Witnessing

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Alexandra W. Schultheis Moore, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: Symbolized in Amnesty International's candle illuminating the darkness, the rhetoric of exposure has long been a central trope of humanitarian discourse: the promise of revelation presumes that egregious violations are otherwise secret and that, in Thomas Keenan's words, "those agents whose behavior it wishes to affect—governments, armies, businesses, and militias—are exposed in some significant way to the force of public opinion, and that they are (psychically or emotionally) structured like individuals in a strong social or cultural context that renders them vulnerable to feelings of dishonor, embarrassment, disgrace, or ignominy."1 Despite the implausibility of these conditions, as well as the dangers of oversaturation, "mass and especially the image-based media" have only accentuated the ostensible self-evidence of this approach.2 The rhetoric of exposure posits a liberal subject as its addressee who is ready and willing to respond to humanitarian appeals constructed through an "aesthetics of suffering," particularly in the form of indignation-inducing shock or the representation of victims who are "deserving" of aid or assistance.3 Such familiar humanitarian narratives comprise, as Lilie Chouliaraki writes, "rhetorical practices of transnational actors that engage with universal ethical claims, such as common humanity or global civil society, to mobilize action on human suffering."4

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
transnational witnessing, human rights, humanitarianism, Mia Kirshner

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