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    'Shoot the messenger': dynamics of positioning and denial in response to human rights appeals

    Seu, Irene Bruna (2011) 'Shoot the messenger': dynamics of positioning and denial in response to human rights appeals. Journal of Human Rights Practice 3 (2), pp. 131-169. ISSN 1757-9619.

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    This article offers a psychosocial discursive analysis of audiences’ responses to information about human rights abuses. The analysis of focus group members’ justifications for their inaction is informed by a view of language as social action and Cohen’s concept of denial, with its focus on the culturally available accounts of justifications and excuses that form the vocabulary of moral passivity within our society. Positioning theory is applied to study participants’ moral positioning and the storylines used to account for their passivity, with a specific focus on the use of negative positioning of Amnesty International and charities in general. Four storylines – ‘trust and truthfulness’, ‘misuse of resources’, ‘effectiveness of proposed action’, and ‘money and manipulation’ – are discussed in terms of how participants use them to weaken the standing of the appeal makers and to ascribe a moral position to themselves, whilst remaining passive to the appeal. The article discusses the implications of such positioning for the local moral order, its wider cultural significance, and its implications for campaigning. It claims that the relationship between appeal makers and potential moral actors is an important factor in fostering or hindering social responsibility and collective action. As such, it argues for increased attention to be paid to it by researchers.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): denial, discursive analysis, human rights appeals, moral apathy, positioning theory, storylines
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Research Centres and Institutes: Mapping Maternal Subjectivities, Identities and Ethics (MAMSIE), Gender and Sexuality, Birkbeck (BiGS), Social Research, Birkbeck Institute for (BISR)
    Depositing User: Bruna Seu
    Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2012 09:55
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:01


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