Toronto Metropolitan University
Browse
Wyman, Vashti.pdf (3.8 MB)

Humanitarians of Instagram: The Western Gaze in a Digital Age

Download (3.8 MB)
thesis
posted on 2024-02-07, 20:18 authored by Maia Wyman

This thesis calls for a pictorial critique of pre-packaged overseas volunteering under the pretense of humanitarianism—voluntourism. By using a mixed-method approach of visual content analysis and semiotics, it endeavors to investigate the visual culture of voluntourism on social media. Through the overrepresentation of racialized children in voluntourism imagery on Instagram, the visual culture of voluntourism reinforces paternalistic narratives about the Global South, objectifies subaltern people, and depoliticizes their struggles. These constitute a digital humanitarian gaze, defined through a fusion of Mostafanezhad’s theory of the ‘popular humanitarian gaze’ and Shakeela and Weaver’s theory of the social-mediated gaze, which situate the imbalanced and objectifying mode of looking between Western viewers and photographed subjects from the Global South within a digital, social media context. The moment of volunteering is transformed into tourism by the instantaneous externalization of images shared at a distance with those at home and prospective volunteers. The hyper-visibility, replication, and repetition of social media images of subaltern children in voluntourism cements the centrality of the networked humanitarian image in Western society.

History

Language

English

Degree

  • Master of Arts

Program

  • Communication and Culture

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • Thesis

Thesis Advisor

Dr. Anne F. MacLennan

Year

2021

Usage metrics

    Communication and Culture (Theses)

    Exports

    RefWorks
    BibTeX
    Ref. manager
    Endnote
    DataCite
    NLM
    DC