Keywords: war, media, postcolonialism, multiculturalism, human ethics
What counts as "human" in the mass media representations of humanitarian wars? Which is the subject of witnessing, both moral and visual, standing in front of the images of sufferance and destruction in other countries? Which type of boundaries separate and make the difference between the western spectator and the non-western object of vision in the spectacle of the mediatization of suffering, in a context in which humanitarian rhetoric is used to justify military solutions? The article uses Bachtin's concept of "chronotope" to discuss the rhetoric and visual mis en scène of the spectacle of suffering from a postcolonial point of view. The core question deals with the witnessing of distant suffering in a mediatic environment. Starting with a critique of the theories of the moral spectator developed by Boltanksi and Cohen and drawing on the paper elaborates a performative notion of witnessing. In this way witnessing is not seen as a spectator's problem concerning a solipsistic decision about acting or not, but as a performative process linked to the ethical imperatives of listening other voices and of transmitting memories.