Mediating Distant Suffering: Politics of Pity and Victimhood in a Transnational Context

Module code: ML3015

Module co-ordinator: Dr Christian Morgner

Module Aims

The module seeks to engage with issues surrounding the mediation of distant suffering. Students will explore:

  • How media representations assign diverse meanings to suffering and construct different relationships between spectators and sufferers
  • The connection between mediated witnessing and political action

Students will engage with: 

  • Debates about the potentiality of mediated distant suffering to generate transnational solidarity and contribute to the development of global frameworks of human rights and justice
  • Frameworks for evaluating efficacy and ethicality of communication involving distant suffering will be explored

The module will take up these issues in relation to examples ranging from traditional news media to more recent mobilisations employing social media.

Teaching and Learning Methods

  • Weekly two-hour seminar, tutorials and practical demonstrations.
  • Private study comprising guided reading and preparation associated with classes; student self-directed reading; preparation and production of assessed work.
  • Apart from readings, video, audio and other materials are used for illustration.

Assessment Methods

  • Small group presentation critically examining a media case study involving representation of distant suffering (20%)
  • Critical analysis of a transnational communication campaign employing representations of distant suffering and mobilising the politics of pity and/or victimhood, 1,500 words (30%)
  • Assignment examining theoretical competence, capacity for extended critical argumentation and original thinking in relation to the field of mediation of suffering, 3,000 words (50%)

Set Texts

No set texts. Readings will be prescribed in line with the requirements of the lectures/seminars.

Recommended Background Reading and Additional Resources

Distant Suffering: Morality, Media and Politics (Boltanski 1999)
The Spectatorship of Suffering (Chouliaraki 2006)
Media and Morality: On the Rise of the Mediapolis (Silverstone 2006)