Selfies and the Ethics of the Face: A Case Study in Refugee Self-representation


November 28


06:00 pm - 08:00 pm

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Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, The New School


Wolff Conference Room at The New School

6 E 16th St 11th Floor, New York, NY 10003

New York, NY, US, 10003

The Zolberg Institute for Migration and Mobility and the Department of Anthropology at The New School for Social Research are pleased to welcome Lilie Chouliaraki, who will present a talk titled: “Selfies and the Ethics of the Face: A Case Study in Refugee Self-representation.”

In this lecture, Professor Chouliaraki proposes a new understanding of the selfie as moral practice. Extending current approaches to the digital genre of the selfie as an aesthetic or a techno-social practice, the proposed understanding of the selfie as moral practice stems from two places. First, it stems from the function of the selfie to confront us with the face of the other (as a locative ‘*here* I am’ and an existential ‘here *I am*’) and, in so doing, to make a demand for our moral response. Second, it stems from the capacity of the selfie to flow across digital networks, both horizontally across social media (intermediation) and vertically onto mainstream news platforms (remediation). As both face and flow, the ethics of the selfie becomes particularly relevant in research questions around excluded or marginalized groups whose ‘face’ struggles for visibility in Western media spaces.

Taking as a starting point the 2015 refugee crisis and its extensive coverage in European news, Professor Chouliaraki explores the complexities of the selfie as moral practice, by addressing the following questions: What does it mean for refugee selfies to circulate on Western media platforms? In which ways are their faces inserted in ‘our’ visual economies? How is their news value justified? And what role do these justifications play for Western media not only as news platforms but also as moral and political spaces?

Lilie Chouliaraki is Professor of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her main research interest lies in the histories and challenges of mediated suffering. Her work has focused on three domains in which the human body-in-need appears as a problem of communication: disaster news, humanitarian campaigns & celebrity advocacy, war & conflict reporting. Relevant publications include ‘Discourse in Late Modernity’ (1999), ‘The Spectatorship of Suffering’ (2006), ‘The Soft Power of War’ (ed., 2008) and ‘The Ironic Spectator. Solidarity in the Age of Post-humanitarianism’ (2013) as well as sixty articles in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes. Her work has been published in French, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Danish, Greek and (currently) in Chinese. She is the recipient of three international awards for her publications, more recently the Outstanding Book of the Year award of the International Communication Association (ICA 2015, for ‘The Ironic Spectator’).