Friday, 07. February 2020, 19:00-20:30
This is the first event in the framework of the seminar “The Body : Writing and Images in Flesh and Blood”. There will be two speakers, first Cécile Boëx (EHESS, Paris), in French, then of Stefan Tarnowski (OIB Doctoral Fellow and Columbia University), in English.
The event is open to the public.
Cécile Boëx will talk about the videos shot with mobile phones at the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011. These bear witness to the scale of the revolt and the brutality of the repression. Shot in emergency conditions, the videos are embodied, in the sense that bodies and emotions play a predominant role because they put the lives of those filming at stake. In this context, filming is no longer just documenting but becomes a way of living one’s engagement and facing violence. Nevertheless, these forms of witnessing will gradually be formatted within an economy of truth and efficiency supervised by NGOs and the media. This paper outlines filmed testimony’s path towards dispossession, reducing image takers to technicians and subcontractors.
Stefan Tarnowski will detail the emergence and development of the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, who began wearing body-mounted GoPro Cameras on their helmets for training purposes. Soon, the first responders and their trainers based across the border in Turkey found that the footage might contain both evidence of war crimes and have the power to “mobilise shame”. After circulating footage, the White Helmets became the targets of one of the first major Russian disinformation campaigns. Theorists have long questioned the power of human rights videos, despite its early promise, to achieve its aims as part of a politics of humanitarian concern. This follows a common narrative arc surrounding technology, from the optimism that its power can be used for good, to the pessimism of its appropriation for malign ends. Where might the accounts of these “bodies on the ground” and theory meet? What are the resonances and dissonances between theories of technology and the accounts of those who use them?
This event is organised by ANR Shakk, IFPO, and OIB with the collaboration of the SYRBODY project. It is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 grant for research and innovation under agreement number 832777.