International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Empty Portraits – Humanitarian Aid Campaigns and the Politics of Silencing
Carlos Frederico Pereira da Silva Gama, Ana Paula Pellegrino, Felippe de Rosa, Isadora de Andrade

In the Age of Information, humanitarian aid campaignstargeted at donorsarecarefully planned and executed. Competing with the burgeoning figures of other agencies for limited donor money, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – our case study –has employed photos of vulnerable populations as pivotal items in their attempt to convey narratives of urgency and disempowerment. This campaign format is not new. In this paper, we flip the coin from humanitarians to vulnerable populations, approaching the impact of such images as disempowerment devices. The voices of those portrayed cannot be heard, even in digital times. After theInternet revolution,it is said, unprecedented access to information fostered a “do it yourself” culture. However, as we argue here, access to the World Wide Web, as well as the capacity to define your own image,are notreadily available to those silenced, silently portrayed in humanitarian campaigns. We proceed by analyzing current approaches to the possibilities of Internet as communication, in order to map where humanitarian campaigns fit in the overall picture. In this sense, we pose the question:are we witnessing the prologues to a politics of silencing?

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