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International Journal of Cultural Studies


This article takes stock of the insights and approaches advanced by the last 15 years of critical research in humanitarian communication and distant suffering while arguing for a new agenda for ethnography. Ethnography lays bare the messy and fertile terrains of human experience and disrupts idealized figures of witness and sufferer, aid worker and aid recipient, event and the everyday. Bringing into dialogue the anthropology of aid literature and media and cultural studies, this article proposes three important shifts for future research: (1) a focus on processes rather than principles in production studies of humanitarian communication, (2) a focus on ethics arising from everyday life rather than from events of distant suffering, and (3) and a focus on the lifeworlds of the poor and vulnerable rather than those of witnesses.



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