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The theatrical stage for humanitarianism

While the structure of communication in humanitarian campaigning is changing, we are still witnessing campaigns that illustrate the classical and modern West public culture based on the significance of the mediation of suffering and vulnerability as catalysts for solidarity and compassion.
By showing three examples of campaigning from Amnesty International, Doctors of the world and Unicef, I try to exemplify some of the arguments of Lilie Chouliaraki about the theatrical stage for humanitarian communication and its spectacles of suffering.
Amnesty International: “Fireworks from Aleppo”

Amnesty International in Denmark launched a campaign on January 2017 that reconstructed Danish New Year’s Eve built from the sounds of bombs falling in Syria. It was broadcasted across Denmark the days following New Year’s Eve. The campaign presents a direct message to the spectator that says “we hope these sounds remind you of a wonderful news year’s eve. In Aleppo they remind people of something completely different. That is because these sounds are recordings of the bombings of Aleppo”.
Doctors of the world: “Indifference is a disease”

In December 2016, Doctors of the world launched the campaign “Protect Syria: not like us” in US. The almost 2 minute’s video highlights the narrative of the “West” towards refugees with messages such as “they are not like us”, “They are all terrorists” and “They should go back where they came from”. All these titles are combined with the voice of those ones who we refer to highlighting with their voices and testimonies that they are not that different than us. The campaign concludes with an explicative message of “They didn’t choose to be refugees” and poses the question of “Why are we choosing to let them die?”.
Unicef: “Granatapfel”:

Unicef launched in January 2017 a film in Germany about children in war zones. This movie portrays children as victims of a world that they don’t understand. The main characters of the story are a mother and a girl in a warzone. The girl is chasing what for her is an apple but in reality is a grenade. This story is an attempt to assimilate the spectator with the characters by somehow bringing us to that situation. This aim becomes clear on the message at the end of the video that says “Imagine you and your child in a warzone”. The video finishes with the precision of a number “Every 20 minutes a child dies in a warzone”.

Since those campaigns are a mix of sounds, images and recreations of different realities, they are calling for the imagination of the spectator. This is what Chouliaraki calls as a “humanitarian imaginary” and defines it as a viable space for Western populations to engage with non-Western sufferers. Similarly, this space presents a distant suffering that can threaten the sympathetic identification factor, that catalyses on the emotions of indignation (towards the injustice of suffering) and empathy (care towards the victims) and enable us to imagine ourselves as political actors. This morality of revolution or the modern pity (idea of action for salvation or revolution that separates those who suffer from those who not) (Boltanski: 1993) is within the moral education of the west, according to Chouliaraki, and is represented in all the campaigns above, under a call for empathy, indignation and compassion. Likewise, we can highlight the separation of “us” and “they” in all the campaigns and we can see and attempt to assimilate the sufferers and the spectators with their final messages.

Chouliaraki, after a wide criticism towards the west model of mediation of humanitarianism claims the need to develop a novel approach to humanitarianism that recognizes the perspective to life in a tangible manner. Stating that the citizen is an ironic spectator of other people’s suffering. Thus, rather than engaging with solidarity of distant others, she proposes to use ironic solidarity to engage with the self and relating solidarity with choice, lifestyle and ourselves.

To finish with, I have gathered some examples to exemplify this tendency than is increasingly used by campaigners.

Garde-Mange Pour Tous: “Help us fill the emptiness”

fill the emptiness.jpg

Smoke free life: “Forbidden”


Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity: “Ordinary World – Trolley”


The aim of those campaigns is to encourage people to act, since it is the essence of humanitarian campaigns. Although in those ones with new approach in particular the individual is conceived as the main character of the campaign, what makes the spectator less distant from its message.

This model seems effective in a growing narcissist West where the new approach to humanitarianism is about the self rather than engaging with the solidarity of distant others (Chouliaraki: 2013).


Chouliaraki, L., (2013) The Ironic Spectator: Solidarity in the Age of Post-Humanitarianism. Cambridge and Malden, MA: Polity.

Boltanski, L. (1993) Distant Suffering: Morality, Media and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.





#Mamilolivre (#free nipple)

Continuation of the Personal stories for Social Change: #lifeinleggins and #Mamilolivre post:

Mamilo Livre (Free Nipple) is a Brazilian campaign launched in September 2015 by a psychologist and blogger Letícia Bahia and photographer Julia Rodrigues. Their aim was to challenge the objectification of women’s breasts related to sexual meanings and they were claiming the individual’s sovereignty over one’s body.

“Nipple Freedom is, above all, a symbolic dispute over the right to attribute meaning to one’s own body. So we’re the ones saying that our nipples can mean, at a certain moment, maternity. Other times, politics. And other times even sex. But when – and only when – we say so”. (Mamilo livre manifesto)

The campaign encouraged people to print pictures of women and men bare chests from the campaign’s website and post them in public spaces. The initiative had positive response.

Nonetheless, the movement changed its course when Facebook blocked all the portraits featuring women and suspended the profiles of those who published them. To challenge Facebook’s censorship, Julia and Letícia came up with the idea of dividing the picture of the nipple into four different photos and publish them simultaneously, Facebook will display it as a mosaic, where the nipple will be completely visible although it will not be in one single photo, and thus not detected by its system.

Moreover, the campaign seemed to take another angle. “Those photos are part of an experiment of mine inside Facebook. People from all genders posed for me with their bared chests, without sexual or pornographic appeal. Which photos will be considered improper for the public or for the Facebook system? What are the real differences between one portrait and another? What is offensive in one nipple that isn’t in the other?” (Mamilo livre website)

Overall, this is another example of a successful protest campaign where active participation and support were required. I encourage all readers to gather more examples to see how new technologies allow to integrate citizens to activism and since it is a new communication line, it would be very interesting to see activists’ creativity.

I also encourage all readers to advocate for the initiative and to print some pictures and glue them in your city! You can download them from the campaign’s website.



Hodges, Simon. 2014. What’s so special about storytelling for social change? (Online). Available:

Wallace, Alice. 2016. The Bahamas: Interview with Founder of #LifeInLeggings (online) Available:

Mendes Franco, Janine. 2016. Caribbean Women Take Their Power Back by Sharing Stories of Sexual Abuse Via the #LifeinLeggingHashtag (Online). Available:

Rodrigues, Julia. Bahia, Leticia . Mamilo livre.

Sganzerla, Taisa. 2016. Brazilian Activists Outsmart Facebook’s Censorship of the Female Nipple. (Online). Available:

The women’s right to choose campaign; a source of inspiration

Continuation of the Polish women on strike! post

A source of inspiration

Throughout history, we might have to thank lots of women and men for having fought for women rights and for being an exceptional source of inspiration; the Parisians, for example, that in front of the Palace of Versailles during the French Revolution were claiming women’s right to vote. Or when on the 8 of May 1857 a group of women workers in New York submitted a proposal to improve their working conditions. We also have to thank the suffragettes in the UK and the feminists of the late 19th century in US, opposed to the legalization of abortion, and so on.

By comparing different campaigns (similar issues) throughout history, we realize that the practices used in civil society for advocating change to decision makers and the way to tackle them haven’t change much over the years. The “outside track”  that Paul Hilder defines as one of the two approaches of campaigning(popular mobilizations and social movements which actively involve a wider public in making claims on power) is present in all the campaigns we have mentioned.

For instance, the women’s right to choose campaign in US. I would like to share with you the Huffington post article 21 Inspirational Images Of Women Standing Up For The Right To Choose; it’s a historical review of campaigning for women’s right to choose in US from 1935 to the present. I took some “inspirational” examples.


1967: Birth Control information on New York buses is held up for scrutiny by Marcia Goldstein, the publicity director of Planned Parenthood. (Photo by H. William Tetlow/Fox Photos/Getty Images)


1971: Demonstrators demanding a woman’s right to choose march to the U.S. Capitol for a rally seeking repeal of all anti-abortion laws in Washington, D.C., Nov. 20, 1971. On the other side of the Capitol was a demonstration held by those who are against abortion. (AP Photo)


1973: Pro-abortion rights campaigners at a demonstration in favor of abortion in front of the American Hotel in mid-town New York, where the American Medical Association is holding its annual convention. (Photo by Peter Keegan/Keystone/Getty Images)


1974: A reproductive rights demonstration, Pittsburgh, PA, 1974. (Photo by Barbara Freeman/Getty Images)


1986: Pro-abortion rights campaigners at a National March For Women’s Lives in Washington DC, 9th March 1986. (Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images)


1999: Protesters organized by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League demonstrate across the street from the hotel in New York where Republican Texas Governor and presidential hopeful George W. Bush appeared at a reception 05 October, 1999. (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)


2013: Women hold up signs during a women’s pro-abortion rights rally on Capitol Hill, July 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. The rally was hosted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America to urge Congress against passing any legislation to limit access to safe and legal abortion. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Source: Huffington Post website, Jan 21, 2015

Although the fact that the same problems have been tackled for years may lead to problems of legitimacy, campaigning in the present has also advantages such as the power of the media and new technologies in supporting mass mobilization (Hilder, Caulier Grice, Lalor: 2013)

After those images, it’s easier to carry on with the fight; a long road lies ahead of us and with examples like the “Black Protest” movement, we are demonstrating we are ready for it.



Liz Hutchins. Friends of the Earth. Campaigning for change: Lessons from History

Nina Bahadour, 2015.21 Inspirational Images Of Women Standing Up For The Right To Choose. The Huffington post.

Paul Hilder, Julier Cautier-Grice, Kate Lalor, 2013. The Young Foundation. Contentious Citizens.

Polish women on strike!

(Post of October 2016)

For the inauguration of this blog, I would like to talk about the “Black Protest Movement” in Poland. An issue that is firmly on the current social and political agenda and is an example of civil society’s capacity to campaign. Moreover, I would like to relate it to other historical campaigns that might be its source of colors (inspiration).

What happened?

The Polish parliament has rejected draft legislation to allow abortion until the end of the 12th week of pregnancy by 240 votes to 173. Abortion is currently permitted only in cases of rape, incest or medical complications for the mother or child and this law would see doctors who perform abortions and women who undergo them face up to 5 years in prison.

Prompt response: Opponents and the Media

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana, Campaigning for Change (lessons from history), p.11

If I may be allowed to paraphrase the 19th century Spanish poet, history is a good source of inspiration.

The opponents of the polish law had a prompt reaction; lots of protests and social media campaigns have been claiming the woman’s right to take decisions over her own body. And I’d like to think that this quick response and its effective organization, is due to all the battles that other women in other countries have done over the course of history to win the recognition of this essential right. For example, the inspirational Icelandic protest action from back in 1975, when the 90% of women in Iceland went on a strike.


A good response of the social media resistance campaign #CzarnyProtest (Black Protest) was shown on Monday 3 October. More than 20,000 protesters gathered on Warsaw’s Central Square. The Black Protest movement appears to be gaining momentum, which participation in social media continuing to grow, for instance, the protest is no longer restricted to Poles; people from around Europe and the United States have joined the protest movement, sharing photos and posts expressing solidarity with Poland’s pro-choice demonstrators.


Those responsible for the “Black Protest” campaign are not only linked to our history but are dealing well with the new network age we are in. For example, the activist group “Women on waves” sent the first “Abortion drone” from Germany to Poland with the methods to end with an unwanted pregnancy.

Woman holds hanger with the Polish flag attached to it as she takes part in abortion rights campaigners' demonstration

A woman holds a hanger with the Polish flag attached to it as she takes part in an abortion rights campaigners’ demonstration “Black Protest” in front of the Parliament in Warsaw, Poland October 1, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

October 18, the Huffington Post

'Woman Strike' Against Abortion Ban In Poland.

Polish women protest in the ‘Women strike’ campaign against a proposed near-total abortion ban in Poland on October 3, 2016 in Warsaw, Poland (Photo: Getty Images)

October 18, the Huffington Post

A source of inspiration (continue reading) ->

Ethics, standards of personal morality


The Dharma-Charkra or ‘Wheel of Law’ is the most important symbol Buddhism. In an individual’s life, ‘Dharma’ becomes manifest as ‘good’ or noble conduct. Chakra means the wheel and symbolizes a constantly changing universe. The 8 spokes of the wheel correspond to the 8 paths to enlightenment, namely: 1. Right view 2. Right resolution 3. Right speech 4. Right conduct 5. Right means of livehood 6. Right effort 7. Right mindfullness 8. Right concentration.

Ikat Textiles of India, by Chelna Desai (Puting Women First, World health organization)

In Buddhism, as in other religions or cultures, there is a clear difference between good and bad, and there is always a symbol, or a list of commandments or a code of conduct that shows the “right” path to follow to perform good.

In the past, a code of conduct was necessary to be able to cohabitate in a community and don’t kill each other. And even more with the early idea of respecting the “space” of the other. Likewise, in the Public Relations and Campaigning discipline, as in all the other disciplines, a code of behavior is required to provide a proper service respecting the rights of the parties involved. For instance, in the Public Relations and Campaigning discipline, a code of ethics has established in order to provide “the highest standards in the practice of public relations” worldwide. (IPRA, international public relations association)

Particularly in the Public Relations and Campaigning discipline we are dealing with issues that threat human lives, therefore “ethical principles are important to prevent harm” (Adhering to ethics in campaigning, UN Women)

Defining ethics

As the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains: “The field of ethics, also called moral philosophy, involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior” Moreover, apart from distinguishing between what is right and wrong, they define what it has to be valued.

Public Relations ethics include values such as honesty, openness, loyalty, fair-mindedness, respect, integrity, and forthright communication (Ethics and public relations, Institute of Public Relations).

According to the World Health Organization, “ethics can be defined as a system or code of moral values that provides rules and standards of conduct”.The organization also defines the “three primary ethical principles that should guide all inquiries involving human beings” are as follows:

1) Respect for persons, which relates to respecting the autonomy and self-determination of participants, and protecting those who lack autonomy, including by providing security from harm or abuse.

2) Beneficence, a duty to safeguard the welfare of people/communities involved, which includes minimizing risks and assuring that benefits outweigh risks.

3) Justice, a duty to distribute benefits and burdens fairly.

(Adhering to ethics in campaigning, UN Women)

IPRA don’t describe themselves as a police force, nor do codes of morals and ethics. As IPRA states, “every PR practitioner should aspire to observe the principles which the Code elaborates. Each practitioner has to be free to interpret and apply their own standards of personal morality and conscience in observing them in their own cultural context”.

However, sometimes the moral and ethics have to be undermined to be able to defend them.

Does the means justify the ends?

In class, we put into question whether nonviolent direct action (NVDA) was justified or not and we also questioned the moral difference between transparency and accountability. I would like to show some examples that can make one think about the limits of the ethics in this discipline.


Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist resistance group that use the medium of punk music and culture for protesting the regime of Vladimir Putin. Among different actions, we can highlight the performance on the altar of Moscow’s main orthodox church. The women appeared in the church, masked with the intention of praying to the Virgin Mary to remove Putin from power.


And then there’s Femen, the grassroots feminist protest movement in support of women’s rights. The women involved use the nudity to draw attention to their protests.

Both groups are choosing actions that are against the code of ethics of the countries they are performed, even though they are highlighting the violation of ethics from the governments and people of those countries.


World Health Organization. 2007. Putting Women First: Ethical and Safety Recommendations for Research on Domestic Violence Against Women. Available in:

UN Women. Adhering to ethics in campaigning. Available in:

Institute of Public Relations. 2007. Ethics and public relations. Available in: