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Four Conversations with Canadian Communications Officers
Dominique Marshall

As the production, content and display of humanitarian images faced the requirements of digital media, humanitarian organizations struggled to keep equitable visual practices. Media specialists reflect on past and current uses of images in four Canadian agencies: the Canadian Red Cross, the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, the World University Service of Canada and IMPACT. Historically, the risk to reproduce the global inequalities they seek to remedy has compelled photographers, filmmakers and publicists in these agencies to develop codes of visual practice. In these conversations, they have shared the insights gained in transforming their work to accompany the rise of new digital technologies and social media. From one agency to the other, the lines of concern and of innovation converge. On the technical side, the officers speak of the advantage of telling personal stories, and of using short videos and infographics. On the organizational side, they have updated ways to develop skills in media production and visual literacy among workers, volunteers, partners and recipients, at all levels of their activity. These interviews further reveal that Communications Officers share with historians a wish to collect, preserve and tell past histories that acknowledge the role of all actors in the humanitarian sphere, as well as an immediate need to manage the abundance of visual documents with respect and method. To face these challenges, the five interviewees rely on democratic traditions of image-making: the trusted relationships, both with the Canadian public and with local peoples abroad, which have always informed the production and the content of visual assets. For this reason, humanitarian publicists might be in a privileged position to intervene in larger and urgent debates over the moral economy of the circulation of digital images in a globalized public space.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Lewis Hine’s Photographs of Refugees for the American Red Cross, 1918–20
Sonya de Laat

From June 1918 to April 1919, the American social photographer Lewis Hine made photographs of refugees in Europe. Refugees emerged as an unexpectedly humanitarian subject during World War I. Care for them was part of the American Red Cross’ (ARC) overall war relief activities, which Hine was hired to visually record. In this paper, I present the way in which refugees went from being framed in the ARC’s mass-circulated popular Red Cross Magazine as unique, innocent, idealized war-affected civilians to eventually being visually displaced in a shifting humanitarian landscape. For refugees who were, by 1920, making their way across the ocean to North America, visual displacement from the humanitarian visual sphere was tantamount to territorial displacement. Anxieties and negative rhetoric of the unassimilated alien prevailed, resulting in the temporary ‘closure’ of America’s borders and the ARC’s growing American-centric relief activities. Entwined with anti-Bolshevism, American immigration, and isolationist politics of the early twentieth century, Hine’s photographs and the ARC’s role in contributing to humanitarian photography are an early example of a rise and fall in sympathies towards refugees that would continue throughout the century.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Valérie Gorin and Sönke Kunkel

This article introduces you to the general themes and questions of this special issue. We argue that history and visual media have long been central to humanitarian communication, but that the overlaps between history, visual media, and humanitarian communication have seldom been addressed. A focus on those overlaps, we suggest, not only demonstrates that critical historical inquiry has much to offer for professional communication specialists, it also sheds new light on the workings, changes and persistence of humanitarian narratives over the twentieth century.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
The Visual Politics and Narratives of Red Cross Museums in Europe and the United States, 1920s to 2010s
Sönke Kunkel

Interpreting Red Cross museums as a visual medium, this essay explores the visual politics of Red Cross museums through the twentieth century. The essay puts particular emphasis on the entanglements between the visual politics and humanitarian narratives of Red Cross museums and identifies three major narratives that museums promoted through the times: a heroic narrative, a narrative of civility, and a volunteer’s narrative. Last, the essay argues that Red Cross museums may offer a fruitful field to encourage more engagement between (public) historians and humanitarian practitioners.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
An Interview with Rainer Schlösser, Spokesperson of the Association of the Red Cross Museums in Germany (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der deutschen Rotkreuz-Museen)
Sönke Kunkel

An accomplished academic, collector, and long-time Red Cross volunteer, Professor Dr Rainer Schlösser is head of the Red Cross Museum of the Red Cross Chapter Fläming-Spreewald in Luckenwalde. He has directed the museum since 2000. Since 2006, he has also served as official spokesperson of the Association of the Red Cross Museums in Germany, a group connecting thirteen Red Cross museums across Germany. I met Rainer Schlösser in his office at the Red Cross Museum in Luckenwalde. After an extended and insightful tour through the museum we sat down to discuss his ideas and his work at the museum.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
1980–2000
Dominique Marshall

For two decades, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) prepared pedagogical materials for Canadian schools. This article reviews the role of visual media in the hundreds of publications prepared for Development Education. Samples collected by Marc Rockbrune, Distribution Clerk responsible for their expedition in schools, libraries, and homes, and donated in 2016 to Carleton University Archives and Research Collections, are read with the help of the ‘psychopedagogical guides’ prepared by CIDA, and the testimonies of two workers of the agency linked to their preparation and dissemination: Mary Bramley, curator of the International Development Photo Library, and Rockbrune himself. Prepared with a large measure of autonomy by a sizeable team of visual artists, designers, and third world reformers, the program outreach was large, and its popularity strong. The expected and effective roles of visual media in the history of this short-lived institution of Development Education is explored to suggest elements of understanding of their impact on a generation of Canadian children and youth.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Visual Advocacy in the Early Decades of Humanitarian Cinema
Valérie Gorin

Focusing on the pivotal period of 1919–23 and the large-scale humanitarian responses in Central and Eastern Europe, this paper discusses the development of advocacy in the movies made by organizations like the ICRC, Save the Children Fund or American Relief Administration. While aid agencies observed and competed with each other for visibility, humanitarian cinema shaped visual advocacy, grounded in the idea that ‘seeing is believing’. Exploring the fragmented audiovisual archives, as well as magazines and promotional material, this paper explores the testimonial function of humanitarian films in the 1920s. It first shows that the immediacy of the cinema technology increased the immersive and affective experience of the viewers by using forensic evidence and images of the body in pain. It then analyses how these films compelled audiences to witness suffering and act through persuasion, suggestion, and emotions. Finally, it inquires into the use of eyewitness images and first-hand accounts during the screenings, to show how these movies operated within larger regimes of visibility, while making claims on behalf of distant beneficiaries.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Valérie Gorin

The following conversation explores the emergence of advocacy within the MSF movement. Maria Guevara was Senior Operational Positioning and Advocacy Advisor in the Operational Centre Geneva (OCG) at MSF Switzerland. Marc DuBois was the Head of the Humanitarian Affairs Department in the Operational Centre Amsterdam (OCA) at MSF Holland and the former Director of MSF UK. Together, we discuss the principle of ‘bearing witness’ and the dilemmas it has raised among MSF’s different sections, as well as its link to eyewitness.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
A framework for understanding EU crisis response
Oliver P. Richmond, Sandra Pogodda, and Roger Mac Ginty

This chapter sets out a key conceptual notion that underpins the book. It expands the well-known conflict response framework of conflict management, conflict resolution and conflict transformation to encompass crisis response by the EU. Thus it examines how a framework of crisis management, crisis resolution and crisis transformation may apply to the EU and expands the framework even further by considering the notion of critical conflict transformation. In keeping with other chapters in the book, it argues that elements of EU crisis response have shown signs of being progressive and emancipatory and conforming to crisis transformation or critical crisis transformation. Yet, and again as seen in later chapters, the trend has been away from emancipatory-style crisis response towards responses that emphasise security and stabilisation.

in The EU and crisis response
Luca Raineri and Francesco Strazzari

This chapter is interested in the framing and construction of the ‘migration crisis’ that faced the EU in the 2010s and its responses to that ‘crisis’. The framing of the migration issues chapter was influenced by the internal politics of member states, the rise of populist and anti-incumbency politics, and a general trend towards securitising issues that previously had been examined outside of a security frame. The chapter details the specific tools adopted by the EU to deal with the ‘crisis’ and notes a withdrawal to a realist policy mind-set that was primarily interested in stabilisation and containment rather than examining the drivers of migration or the populist instrumentalisation of it.

in The EU and crisis response