BCMCR Research Seminar: Journalism, Activism, Community – Representation and voice
Dr. Andrew Jones (University of Warwick) – Jonathan Dimbleby’s Unknown Famine: Television, Humanitarianism and Politics in Britain
This paper discusses how television coverage of major disasters in the global South shaped the historical and political trajectory of humanitarian aid in Britain. It does so through a case study of British television coverage of a deadly famine in Ethiopia in 1973. Despite its severity, the famine went unreported in Britain until its sudden exposure by a single ITV documentary (entitled The Unknown Famine) in October 1973. Presented by Jonathan Dimbleby, The Unknown Famine consisted entirely of graphic images of Ethiopian suffering. The film was watched by an estimated twelve million people in Britain, and instantly triggered an outpouring of popular compassion both at home and abroad. It will be argued that The Unknown Famine shaped the trajectory of British humanitarianism in a number of significant ways, which continue to be pertinent today for our understanding of the relationship between humanitarian NGOs and television, the popular appeal of ‘negative’ images of African suffering, and the enduring tensions between fundraising and education within the international aid sector.
Dr. Shawn Sobers (University of the West of England) – Nothing Matters Everything Matters
The talk explores notions of voice, representation and agency in two bodies of photographic work – the ‘Over The Hill’ portrait images of Tim Andrews made by over 400 photographers, and the self-portrait work by/of myself. The photographers making images of Tim were working in a context where ideas relating to his Parkinson’s Disease would not have been far from the surface, alternatively the images I made of myself would have been consciously aware of the representation of race. Thus this talk is a meditation on the interplay between Black and White males from different generations, and how we both speak of the images of ourselves and possibly what they speak of themselves.
Dr. Andrew Jones is an Assistant Professor in Global Sustainable Development at the University of Warwick. His research focuses on humanitarianism, international aid and development in the 20th century, with a specific interest in British NGOs.
Dr. Shawn Sobers is a filmmaker, photographer, writer and lecturer, and an Associate Professor in Lens Media at the University of West of England. His research is primarily concerned with the use of media and arts in participatory education, advocacy, heritage, marginalised voices and untold stories. He has chapters and articles published in peer reviewed journals and books, and has spoken at a wide range of conferences. Shawn’s research has spanned a wide range of diverse topics, from the use of youth media in informal education, through to using media as an ethnographic research tool exploring subjects such as the legacy of the slave trade through to disability issues and walking.
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