Witnessing the Violence of Modern Exile: An Examination of the Relationship Between the Image, the Spectator, and the Context of Photographs of Pain and Suffering

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Bisnauth, Victoria Nalinie




On September 2, 2015, the image of a young Syrian boy’s body lying on a beach in Turkey immediately rose public awareness of, and drew media attention to, the refugee crisis surrounding Europe’s sea borders, which serves as the starting point of this dissertation. The photograph, its reception, and the context it was taken in all raise several questions regarding the violent conditions of modern exile, the communicative potential of images, and the limits of the spectator’s reading of a photograph depicting the pain and suffering of an Other. This dissertation is therefore primarily concerned with the two topics of exile and photography, and challenges the assumption that certain photographs, like the one of a drowned Syrian toddler, are guaranteed to engage the audience and result in positive social change to end the pain and suffering witnessed.


International Law and Relations
Mass Communications




Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Master of Arts: 

Thesis Degree Level: 


Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Legal Studies

Parent Collection: 

Theses and Dissertations

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