Cultural Politics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives


Monday, April 8, 2019, 5:00pm to 6:30pm


CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Room S250

"Media War: Insurgency and Justice Claims through New Technologies"


Ronald Niezen, William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies, Canada Program. Katharine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy, Department of Anthropology and Faculty of Law, McGill University.


Ilana Freedman


Panagiotis Roilos, Faculty Associate. George Seferis Professor of Modern Greek Studies, Department of the Classics; Professor of Comparative Literature, Department of Comparative Literature, Harvard University.

Dimitrios Yatromanolakis, Associate Professor, Department of Classics, Department of Anthropology, and the Humanities Center, The Johns Hopkins University.



How, in morally complex conditions of warfare, are some states able to control the media and shape the perceptions and judgments of publics in ways that systematically, and at times egregiously, violate international justice standards? To answer this question I draw from media representation of violence and rights claims in the 2012-2013 civil war in Mali and its aftermath, which offers an illustration of the ways that new media technologies can influence justice claims and political relations across national boundaries. The knowledge and resources made available by Bellingcat, an organization dedicated to the use of open source intelligence (OSINT), provide a glimpse into media ecosystems in contexts of violent conflict, where field investigation is impossible. These online tools reveal the ideologies and infrastructures of groups in conflict. They also bring out the public representations of conflicts, including the structures of disinformation and the thematic preferences of major media outlets that have overwhelmed the voices of moderate human rights advocates—those whose quests for international recognition, autonomy, and, more immediately, attention to conditions of forced displacement and mass killing often go unheard.



Ronald Niezen is the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor in Canadian Studies at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs for 2018-2019 and is the Katharine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy in the Faculty of Law and Department of Anthropology at McGill University.  He has conducted research on an Islamic reform movement in West Africa, justice campaigns in indigenous communities in Canada, and the international movement of indigenous peoples in the United Nations. His books include: The Origins of Indigenism: Human Rights and the Politics of Difference (University of California Press 2003) Truth and Indignation: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools (University of Toronto Press 2017) and a co-edited volume (with Maria Sapignoli) Palaces of Hope: The Anthropology of Global Organizations (Cambridge University Press 2017).  He is currently pursuing a comparative study of communication technologies and the public politics of human rights claims.