Scheda insegnamento

Anno Accademico 2017/2018

Conoscenze e abilità da conseguire

At the end of the course, the student will be able to understand and analyze the way the western media covers the developing world and the humanitarian emergencies. Being more specific, the student will be able to understand and analyze: - the emerging and historical humanitarian narratives, with particular reference to the way in which the activities of NGOs are reported; - how we understand and explain faraway disasters; - how the media representations of suffering and violence has changed in the post cold war period and in the digital era; - the relationship between media, aid, corporate communication and branding; - the relationship between power, media and migration.


This course aims to encourage students to think sociologically about a range of issues and “social problems”  related to media representations of suffering and violence. It also serves as an introduction to some important themes and issues within humanitarianism and migration. Areas under study include: the construction of “social problems”, media, ethics, human rights, disaster relief, war, famine, refugee camps, social movements, NGOs. A special focus is dedicated to the mediated performances that contribute to create the spectacle of the humanitarian border, which is physically and simbolically enacted by the different actors involved in contemporary management of migration.

Moving from the assumption that our awareness of nearly all humanitarian issues is defined by the media, this course looks at the literature associated with humanitarian organizations and the NGO narratives, tracing the imagined and real encounters between solidarity, participation, and citizenship in the context of larger social processes of mediation and globalization.

Examining humanitarian communication through various forms of aesthetic activism - documentary, photojournalism, benefit concerts, celebrities, live blogging -  the course invites students to explore how the circulation of humanitarian images and narratives impact the peoples it aims to serve, and what can we learn about global inequality from the stories associated with it.


  • Lilie Chouliaraki, The Ironic Spectator. Solidarity in the age of post-humanitarianism, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2013 (sections)

  • Didier Fassin, Pandolfi Mariella, Contemporary states of emergency: The politics of military and  humanitarian interventions, Zone Books, NY, 2011 (sections)

  • Michael Barnett and Thomas G. Weiss ed., Humanitarianism in Question: Politics, Power, Ethics, Cornell University Press, NY, 2008 (sections)

  • Pierluigi Musarò, Living in Emergency: Humanitarian images and the inequality of lives, On-Line Sociological Review 2, 2011

  • Pierluigi Musarò, “Africans” vs. “Europeans”: Humanitarian Narratives and the Moral Geography of the World, Sociologia della Comunicazione, 45, FrancoAngeli, Milano, 2013
  • Pierluigi Musarò, Mare Nostrum: the visual politics of a military-humanitarian operation in the Mediterranean Sea, Media, Culture and Society, 6, 2016

  • Lilie Chouliaraki & Pierluigi Musarò, The mediatized border: technologies and affects of migrant reception in the Greek and Italian borders, Feminist Media Studies, 2017

Further readings and references (book chapters, articles, papers, documents, video) will be provided during the course.

Metodi didattici

A mix of lectures, seminars, collective discussion, student's presentations, documentaries and films on the issues of media and humanitarianism.

Modalità di verifica dell'apprendimento

Active participation and discussions    30%

Presentation and midterm exam  40%

Final paper                  30%

Participation: Since this is a seminar, active participation in class is a crucial part of your learning.  Through news articles, videos,  web sites, or readings you will help the teacher to stimulate discussion during the class.

Presentation and midterm exam: This is a research-based presentation – intended as a synthesis of both the literary and political materials we have discussed during the course - that you (or your study group) will read or present to the class in whatever format you wish. Further, there is a midterm in class exam in which the students are required to answer to some open questions.

Final Paper: This will be on a focused topic of your choice, drawing on research and careful analysis of select readings for the class. Further guidance will be given in class

Strumenti a supporto della didattica

Papers, articles, films and documentaries, web sites.

Orario di ricevimento

Consulta il sito web di Pierluigi Musarò