Symposium: POLITICAL THEATERS OF SUFFERING Humanitarian Politics and Representation of Distant Suffering

By invitation only

Thu 15.3.2012 at 9:00-18:00
Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Kruunuvuorenkatu 4, 2nd Floor, Helsinki

This symposium will explore new ways of discussing and analysing how suffering midst crises, catastrophes and wars can be politically constructed and mediated. Catastrophes with global spectatorship, and massively circulated representations of human suffering can function as political theatres in which humanity, human worth, citizenship, belonging, political significance and political power are projected, created and assessed. Humanitarian imagery and rhetoric can be used in justifying wars and power political acts. Suffering and basic human rights can work as motivations and legitimation for military and political agency. The tsunami in Japan, Haiti’s earthquake, the floods in Pakistan, the WTC-terror attacks, the war in Libya, or the civilian suffering in the Afghan or Somalia wars have all acted as spectacular dramas of a global scale. The suffering of the affected individuals has been understood, felt, reacted to, politicized or even forgotten in distinct ways. Humanitarian NGO’s, news media, political actors, states and the military all create and communicate various distinct types of suffering, different ways of encountering it, as well as different solutions and ways of alleviation. In the liberal world order, violent crises, vulnerability and ultimately suffering can invite and construct political and analytical windows of opportunity.


08:30 registration and coffee
9:00- 10:15 Opening Plenary
Opening of the Symposium
Teija Tiilikainen, Director, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Keynote Speech:
Post-humanitarianism: The Contemporary Politics of Solidarity
Lilie Chouliaraki, Professor, London School of Economics

10:15  Parallel Sessions
Chair: Julian Reid
Chair: Mika Aaltola

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch 

13:30 Plenary Session
Keynote Speech: 
Endgames: Aestheticizing the Coming Catastrophe
Julian Reid, Professor, University of Lapland 

15:00-16:50 Parallel Sessions
Chair: Lilie Chouliaraki
Chair: Pierluigi Musaṛ

17:00-18:00 Final Plenary
Keynote Speech: 
Victims or heroes? Notes on the Moral Geography of the World
Pierluigi Musaṛ, Assistant Professor, University of Bologna & Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University, USA 

Concluding Words & Chair of the Conference: 
Mika Aaltola, Programme Director, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs 

The full programme with abstracts are available at the top of the page.

Keynote speakers:
Professor Lilie Chouliaraki, The London School of Economics (LSE), UK
Post-humanitarianism: The Contemporary Politics of Solidarity

Lilie Chouliaraki is Professor of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Research Director of POLIS, LSE's think tank for journalism and society. Chouliaraki's research interests broadly include Social and Cultural Theory, Ethics and Political Philosophy as well as Corporate Communication, Communication Theory and Discourse Studies. She is the author of The Spectatorship of Suffering (Sage, 2006).

Professor Julian Reid, University of Lapland
The Political Utility of Catastrophe

Julian Reid is Professor of International Relations at the University of Lapland. Previously he has taught at King’s College London, Sussex University, and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He is the author of The Liberal Way of War, with Michael Dillon, (Routledge, 2009) and The Biopolitics of the War on Terror (Manchester University Press, 2006).

Dr. Pierluigi Musaṛ, IPK Visiting Scholar, NYU; Assistant Professor, Faculty of Political Science, Bologna University
Victims or heroes? Notes on the moral geography of the world.

Pierluigi Musaṛ's research focuses on the links between political consumerism and citizenship, as well as between humanitarian action in developing countries and civic engagement, with special reference to the humanitarian discourse of compassion for the victims. Recent research and publications have examined the relationship between humanitarian marketing strategies, visual construction of human suffering and moral imaginary.

The Symposium is Chaired by
Dr. Mika Aaltola, Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

Important Dates:
15 December 2011: Deadline for abstract submission (250 words)
15 January 2012: Acceptance of abstracts confirmed
1 March 2012: Deadline for full papers (max. 8000 words)

More information:  
Ms. Noora Kotilainen, noora.kotilainen(a) and Ms. Annica Moore, amoore(a)