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    Banal phenomenologies of violence: media work cultures and audience engagement with distant suffering

    Markham, Tim (2017) Banal phenomenologies of violence: media work cultures and audience engagement with distant suffering. In: Hodgson, G. (ed.) Conflict, Trauma and the Media: A Collection of Essays. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 12-28. ISBN 9781443879033.

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    There is a consensus in the academic literature that Western audiences are disengaged from the human trauma they encounter in their everyday media use. Whether this is a product of the commercialisation of news or mediation itself is debated, but it is broadly agreed that ordinary people do not care as much as they should about faraway victims of conflict, war and injustice. Ongoing research investigates what can be done to reconnect audiences, which in theoretical terms hinges on the recognition of the full subjectivity of distant others. In particular, recent theorisations of violence drawing on Charles Taylor and ultimately Adam Smith have emphasised the role that imagination might play in fostering understanding of the subjective experience of conflict. In contrast, this paper contends that both the pathologisation of audience responses to mediated conflict and the remedies intended to shake people out of their indifference rest on a misconception of how the recognition of other subjectivities plays out in quotidian life. It does so by way of an investigation of the experience of media practitioners who self-evidently do care about others: journalists and media activists in Beirut, Lebanon, whose work focuses inter alia on the casualties and refugees of the war in neighbouring Syria. Seen at the level of the everyday, this experience can be similarly lacking in revelation, but its meaningfulness is not undermined by its banalities. The paper concludes that the dearth of intense moments of subjective recognition in ordinary contexts of media consumption is both rational and ethically defensible.


    Item Type: Book Section
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Depositing User: Tim Markham
    Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2017 13:35
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:42


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