Regarding the Pain of Others: What Emotions have to do in the History of Humanitarian Images.

A workshop organized by the Institute for Ethics, History, and the Humanities (University of Geneva) and the Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action (University of Geneva).

Taking the title of Susan Sontag’s seminal work as a starting point, this workshop aims at re-opening an old debate about the potentialities of exhibiting other’s suffering in order to promote a culture of peace, prevent war and/or resolve conflict. Sontag concluded in her book that images of atrocities had led the Global North to a form of
exhaustion, also called compassion fatigue, which has been criticized more recently as a myth. Yet, images remain today the main strategy of humanitarian organizations to raise awareness and funds.

In this workshop we would like to propose considering the importance of images (not only photographs, but also drawings as well as motion pictures) within the long-term history of humanitarianism, in order to explore the role of emotions in shaping and mobilizing public opinion. More particularly, we encourage scholars to think about the
ways through which humanitarian images affect us as material objects that have expressive effects related to the circuits, places or circumstances in which they are exhibited. This perspective gives us the possibility to read humanitarian images as cultural, social and political practices implemented by actors (individual or collective) in
a specific historical context. By engaging emotions with images, we seek to understand what they have done in the history of humanitarian relief, rather than merely looking at the meaning of their visual representations.

Therefore, we invite scholars working on the history of humanitarian images, who are interested in analyzing their performative and material entanglements with emotions, to send a 300-word proposal and a short biography by December, 14, 2018 to

For all speakers who are invited to present papers at the conference, the organizing committee will cover the traveling and accommodation costs.

Organizing Committee

Valérie Gorin (CERAH, University of Geneva/Graduate Institute)
Marie Leyder (iEH2/Institute of Gender Studies, University of Geneva)
Dolores Martín-Moruno (iEH2, University of Geneva)
Gian Marco Vidor (iEH2, University of Geneva)

Scientific Committee

Roland Bleiker (University of Queensland, Australia)
Emma Hutchison (University of Queensland, Australia)
Jo Labanyi (New York University, USA)
Beatriz Pichel (De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)
Davide Rodogno (Graduate Institute, Geneva, Switzerland)

CFP_Regarding the Pain of Others