This article analyzes imagery and representation in humanitarianism. It focuses on ethical dilemmas aid agencies face in advertizing: on the one hand, photos of distant victims are necessary to inform and to raise funds; however, the risk is that these representations dehumanize and devalue the very individuals they are intended to assist. There are two central arguments. The first is that humanitarian actors engage imagery as a “recipe,” or means, of bridging distance, thus transporting the distant victim to donor publics. Second, the paper argues that these marketing acts raise essential ethical questions as they derive emotional force through their reliance on human misery. If images of suffering and want are a means towards a principled end, they also risk undermining the principle of humanity and calling into question the very meaning of humanitarianism. The article concludes by returning to the role of technology and change in representing humanitarian crisis.
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