Ravished Armenia: Visual Media, Humanitarian Advocacy, and the Formation of Witnessing Publics

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Abstract

Discourses around human rights frequently treat media as transparent delivery systems for testimony and spectacles of atrocity. Such views detract from the degree to which media circuits shape human rights claims, in which aesthetic strategies transform a vast and distant horror into sympathetic cause, and systems of exhibition channel sentiment into action. This article's study of Ravished Armenia and the early film advocacy of Near East Relief in the Armenian case yields not only the contributions of media to claims-making process and humanitarian action but also Christian underpinnings of human rights movements. The evangelical legacy produced missions that provided the transnational infrastructure for sharing visual testimony and administering aid and offered an instrumental iconography of suffering that shaped an early “rights imaginary.”

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