"Africans" vs. "europeans": humanitarian narratives and the moral geography of the world

Author/s Pierluigi Musarò
Publishing Year 2014 Issue 2013/45 Language Italian
Pages 23 P. 37-59 File size 559 KB
DOI 10.3280/SC2013-045004
DOI is like a bar code for intellectual property: to have more infomation click here

Below, you can see the article first page

If you want to buy this article in PDF format, you can do it, following the instructions to buy download credits

Article preview

FrancoAngeli is member of Publishers International Linking Association, Inc (PILA), a not-for-profit association which run the CrossRef service enabling links to and from online scholarly content.

Moving from the assumption that borders are not mirror-like reflections of the divisions existing in the physical-cultural landscape but are fabrications people and institutions make to legitimate distinctions between them, the paper begins by identifying discourses and the ways in which humanitarian narratives usually represent Europe and Africa as "imagined meta-communities" and construct borders at imaginary levels. The article focuses on humanitarian organizations’ fundraising and awareness campaigns, the public communication of the European border control agency Frontex, and other public communications, which construct imaginaries of "Africans" and "Europeans" in different contexts through text and visual images. Finally, the paper explores how humanitarian discourse reduces vulnerable and suffering populations to voiceless victims by reifying their condition of victimhood while ignoring their history and muting their words.

Muovendo dal presupposto che i confini non sono riflessi speculari delle divisioni esistenti nel paesaggio fisico-culturale ma sono convenzioni che persone e istituzioni operano per legittimare le distinzioni tra loro, il saggio si apre identificando i discorsi e le diverse modalità in cui le narrazioni umanitarie abitualmente rappresentano l’Europa e l’Africa come "meta-comunità immaginate", costruendo confini a livello immaginario. Il saggio si focalizza sulle campagne di raccolta fondi e di sensibilizzazione delle organizzazioni umanitarie, sulla comunicazione pubblica dell’agenzia per il controllo dei confini europei Frontex, e su altre comunicazioni pubbliche che attraverso testi e immagini visuali costruiscono gli immaginari relativi ad "Africani" ed "Europei" in differenti contesti. Da qui, l’articolo esplora come il discorso umanitario riduce le popolazioni vulnerabili e sofferenti a vittime senza voce, reificando la loro condizione dell’essere vittime, ignorando al contempo la loro storia e silenziando le loro parole.

Keywords: Humanitarian narratives, border control, inequality, compassion, migration, NGO.

  1. Agamben G. (1998), Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford University Press, Stanford.
  2. Anderson B. (1983), Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, London.
  3. Anderson J., O’Dowd L. (1999), Borders, Border Regions and Territoriality: Contradictory Meanings, Changing Significance, «Reg. Studies», 33, pp. 593-604.
  4. Balibar E. (2004), We, the People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship, Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  5. Barnett M., Weiss T. (2008), Humanitarianism in Question: Politics, Power, Ethics, Cornell University Press, New York.
  6. Beck U. (1992), Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, Sage, London-New Delhi.
  7. Bell D. A., Coicaud J. M. (2007), Ethics in Action: The Ethical Challenges of International Human Rights, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  8. Boltanski L. (1999), Distant Suffering: Morality, Media and Politics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  9. Bornstein E., Redfield P. (2011), Forces of Compassion: Humanitarianism Between Ethics and Politics, SAR Press, Santa Fe.
  10. Calhoun C. (2008), The Imperative to Reduce Suffering: Charity, Progress, and Emergencies in the Field of Humanitarian Action, in M. Barnett, T. Weiss, Humanitarianism in Question: Politics, Power, Ethics, Cornell University Press, New York.
  11. Calhoun C. (2010), The Idea of Emergency: Humanitarian Action and Global (Dis)order, in D. Fassin, M. Pandolfi, Contemporary States of Emergency, Zone Books, New York. Chatterjee D. K. (2004), The Ethics of Assistance: Morality and the Distant Needy,
  12. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  13. Chouliaraki L. (2006), The Spectatorship of Suffering, Sage, London-New Delhi.
  14. Chouliaraki L. (2012), The Ironic Spectator, Polity Press, Cambridge.
  15. Dal Lago (1999), Non-persone. L’esclusione dei migranti in una società globale, Feltrinelli, Milano.
  16. Dal Lago A., Palidda S. (2010), Conflict, Security and the Reshaping of Society. The Civilization of War, Routledge, Londra.
  17. de Haas H. (2007), The Myth of Invasion. Irregular Migration from West Africa to the Maghreb and the European Union, IMI research report, International Migration Institute, Oxford.
  18. de Haas H. (2011), Mediterranean Migration Futures: Patterns, Drivers and Scenarios, «Global Environmental Change», 21, 1, pp. 59-69.
  19. de Waal A. (1997), Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa, Indiana University Press, Oxford.
  20. Diawara M. (2010), African Film, Prestel, Munich-New York.
  21. Driessen H. (1998) The “New Immigration”and the Transformation of the European-African Frontier, in T. M. Wilson, H. Donnan (eds.), Border Identities: Nation and State at International Frontiers, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 96-116.
  22. Duffield M. (2001), Global Governance and the New Wars: The Merging of Development and Security, Zed Books, London.
  23. Fairclough N. (1995), Critical Discourse Analysis, Wesley, Boston.
  24. Fassin D. (2007), Humanitarianism as a Politics of Life, «Public Culture», 19, 3, pp. 499-520.
  25. Fassin D. (2012), Humanitarian Reason. A Moral History of the Present, California Press, Berkeley.
  26. Fassin D., Pandolfi M. (2010), Contemporary States of Emergency, Zone Books, New York.
  27. Fearon A. (2008), The Rise of Emergency Relief Aid, in M. Barnett, T. Weiss, Humanitarianism in Question: Politics, Power, Ethics, Cornell University Press, New York.
  28. Feldman I., Ticktin M. (2010), In the Name of Humanity: The Government of Threat and Care, Duke University Press, Durham.
  29. Gamson W. A., Croteau D., Hoynes W., Sasson T. (1992), Media Images and the Social Construction of Reality, «Annual Review of Sociology», 18, pp. 373-393.
  30. García S. (1993), European Identity and the Search for Legitimacy, Pinter, London.
  31. Guiraudon V., Joppke C. (2001), Controlling a New Migration World, Routledge, London-New York.
  32. Haskell T. (1985), Capitalism and the Origins of the Humanitarian Sensibility, «American Historical Review», 90, 2, pp. 332-354.
  33. Held D. (1995), Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance, Polity Press, Cambridge. Horsti, K. (2008), Europeanisation of Public Debate. Swedish and Finnish News on African Migration to Spain, «Javnost – The Public», 15, 4, pp. 41-54.
  34. Kennedy, D. (2004), The Dark Sides of Virtue: Reassessing International Humanitarianism, Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  35. Lievrouw L., Livingstone S. (2006), Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Social Consequences, Sage, London.
  36. Linfield S. (2010), The Cruel Radiance, University Chicago Press, Chicago-London.
  37. Moeller S. (1999). Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, Ethical, Legal and Political Dilemmas, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  38. Moyn S. (2010), The Last Utopia. Human Rights in History, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
  39. Musarò P. (2011), Living in Emergency: Humanitarian Images and the Inequality of Lives, «New Cultural Frontiers», 2, pp. 13-43.
  40. Newman D. (2006), The Lines that Continue to Separate Us: Borders in our “Borderless” World, «Progress and Human Geography», 30, 2, pp. 143-161.
  41. Paasi A. (1996), Territories, Boundaries and Consciousness: The Changing Geographies of the Finnish-Russian Border, Wiley, Chichester.
  42. Pastore F., Monzini P., Sciortino G. (2006), Schengen’s Soft Underbelly? Irregular Migration and Human Smuggling across Land and Sea Borders to Italy, «International Migration», 44, pp. 95-119.
  43. Polman L. (2010), The Crisis Caravan. What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?, Met. Book, London.
  44. Popescu G. (2011), Bordering and Ordering the Twenty-first Century: Understanding Borders, Rowman & Littlefield, New York.
  45. Rieff D. (2002), A Bed for the Night. Humanitarianism in Crisis, Simon & Schuster, New York.
  46. Robbins R. (2002), Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, Allyn & Bacon, Boston.
  47. Rorty R. (1993), Human Rights, Rationality and Sentimentality, in S. Shute, S. Hurley, On Human Rights: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1993, Basic Books, New York, pp. 112-134.
  48. Sassen S. (2006), Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages, Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  49. Scharpf F. (1999), Governing in Europe: Effective and Democratic, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  50. Slim H. (2000), Dissolving the Difference between Relief and Development: The Making of a Rights-Based Solution, «Development in Practice», vol. 10.3.
  51. Sontag S. (2002), Regarding the Pain of Others, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.
  52. United for Intercultural Action (2011), List of 15551 Documented Refugee Deaths through Fortress Europe. Documentation on 16 june 2011, www.unitedagainstracism.org. UNOCD (2006), Organized Crime and Irregular Migration from Africa to Europe, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
  53. Wilson R., Brown R. D. (2009), Humanitarianism and Suffering, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  54. Zielonka J. (1998), Explaining Euro-Paralysis: Why Europe is Unable to Act in International Politics, Macmillan, London.
  55. Zielonka J. (2001), How New Enlarged Borders will Reshape the European Union, «Journal of Common Market Studies», 39, 3, pp. 507-536.

  • Visual Securitization Alice Massari, pp.135 (ISBN:978-3-030-71142-9)
  • Visual Securitization Alice Massari, pp.1 (ISBN:978-3-030-71142-9)
  • Contronarrazioni del cambiamento climatico. Diari di ingiustizia climatica tra Dakar e Saint Louis, Senegal Elena Giacomelli, Sarah Walker, in SOCIOLOGIA DELLA COMUNICAZIONE 64/2023 pp.121
    DOI: 10.3280/SC2022-064007

Pierluigi Musarò, "Africans" vs. "europeans": humanitarian narratives and the moral geography of the world in "SOCIOLOGIA DELLA COMUNICAZIONE " 45/2013, pp 37-59, DOI: 10.3280/SC2013-045004