Journalism, representation and the public sphere

Title chapter:Media representations of suffering and mobility. Mapping humanitarian imaginary through changing patterns of visibility
Author:Saiona Stoian
Keywords: media representations of suffering, humanitarian imaginary, melodrama of mobility, public culture
Abstract:Recent research on media and suffering highlights, on the one hand, the moral implications of mediation as a process through which various regimes of ethical and imaginative engagement are negotiated and, on the other hand, the structuring effects of media representations which, through their symbolic circulation, simultaneously reinforce and draw upon a humanitarian imaginary. The present paper wishes to expand these concerns in a different disciplinary field, that of mobility studies, in order to ask how the visibility patterns of suffering, informed by the humanitarian imaginary, are further incorporated into a certain understanding of the mobility/immobility dialectic, and how this incorporation affects, in return, the way we view suffering. One of the arguments is that physical vulnerability as "the clearest manifestation of our common humanity" (Chouliaraki, 2013: 26) is gradually replaced, in the context of heightened mobility, by a vocabulary of psychological and emotional trauma aided through media witnessing and testimony. In contemporary society, mobility has become not only a source of symbolic capital, but also an ideal in itself, promoted and reinforced through the logic of the network society. However, as a resource, mobility is not accessible to everyone to the same degree and, while mobility studies have acknowledged the relationship between mobility and emergent forms of social inequality, a systematic analysis of the relationship between mobility/immobility and suffering is yet to be tackled.
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