Communicating solidarity: the cultural politics and practices of humanitarian NGO campaigns

Tavernor, Rachel M (2018) Communicating solidarity: the cultural politics and practices of humanitarian NGO campaigns. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Download (16MB)


This thesis examines humanitarian activism facilitated by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Focusing on two coalition campaigns, ENOUGH FOOD IF (2013) and MAKE POVERTY HISTORY (2005), this thesis investigates how popular understandings of humanitarianism are promoted and understood in relation to the politics of poverty. Visual communication, including images, videos and infographics, is the site of investigations. By addressing visual communication in relation to protest campaigns, this thesis contributes new perspectives to a field that predominantly focuses on fundraising appeals.

This thesis mobilises the concept of solidarity, as a descriptive and normative framework, to investigate the production, representation and participation enabled by communicative structures. The study begins by contextualising protest campaigns within a history of humanitarian communication. Secondly, the production of communicative spaces is critiqued using an analysis of campaign communication, internal campaign documents and 10 semi-structured interviews with NGO professionals. This analysis moves the debate beyond the content of the binary frame of ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ images. Instead, the dominant visuals mobilised by campaigns are discussed in relation to NGO practices and the terrain of inter/intraorganisational politics involved in the production of coalition campaigns. Humanitarian communication, this thesis argues, is shaped by relations of power between NGOs, governments and media institutions. Thirdly, based on an analysis of the campaigns’ digital spaces, 155 diary responses to a Mass Observation Directive and 8 in-depth interviews with young people, the practices of participation are explored. By listening to how people experience NGO communications, this thesis provides a contextualised understanding of the emotions, relationships and performances involved in communicating solidarity. Contributing to a gap in audience research, this study shows how people further mediate, negotiate and at times resist humanitarian narratives.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: Activism, Audiences, Humanitarian Communication, Poverty, Solidarity
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Media and Film
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV0040 Social service. Social work. Charity organization and practice Including social case work, private and public relief, institutional care, rural social work, work relief > HV0042 Mass media. Public relations
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2018 12:59
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:48

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update