"Take This Picture": Humanitarianism and the Politics of Photography in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo Restricted; Files Only

Graham, Aubrey (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/cj82k771x?locale=en
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Abstract

In this dissertation I show how humanitarian photographs (and processes that shape them) articulate with the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) entangled histories, actors, social dynamics, and existing local photographic norms. Through interviews, participant observation, and photographic methodologies, I engage photography as an anthropological topic of study and as a lens through which to engage the surrounding social and political dynamics. I argue that photography - both from humanitarians and local studio photographers - speaks to the social dynamics of Goma and the surrounding province of North Kivu with pervasiveness and intensity due to the photograph's ability to communicate widely and with enormous affective power. I show how the process of photography exposes the individual agency and the collective desires of the interwoven social actors. Moreover, I suggest that photography not only provides a lens through which to visualize the tense relationship between the Congolese and the humanitarian industry and its practitioners but also is a practice that heightens frustrations and conflicts between the two groups.

Across six chapters I employ the "photographic landscape" as a conceptual framework through which to examine humanitarian and Congolese local photography within the political, historical, and social contexts of the eastern DRC. After establishing Goma as a place of volatility and opportunity, I use this framework to explore the region's local and humanitarian "visual fields," each built of their particular photographic cultures and economies. I then engage the social and political dynamics that arise as these respective visual fields intersect. In the overlapping space of local and humanitarian photographic norms, I examine the clashes and creolizations that arise as individuals and organizations equipped with often-divergent visual expectations struggle to harness the photograph to their desires and needs. Throughout this dissertation I simultaneously engage photographs as objects and as processes. In so doing, I expose the networked matrix of power, agency, and imagination that operates across the eastern DRC's space of protracted conflict and humanitarian intervention. Through photographic methodologies and the included sets of photographs, I encourage a critical viewership in anthropology and the production of sensory and visual knowledge.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

List of Figures. p.ii

List of Acronyms. p.ix

A Note to the Reader. p.xi

SECTION 1: INSECURITY, PHOTOGRAPHY, AND CONFLICT IN GOMA

Introduction. p.2

Chapter 1. p.38

A Photographic Disaster ("Oh Yeah, the picture that nearly got me killed…")

Interlude 1. p.79

A Pair of Goma Tours

SECTION 2: THE PHOTOGRAPHIC LANDSCAPE'S VISUAL FIELDS

Chapter 2. p.96

A Guidebook To Glamour (Exploring The Local Visual Field)

Chapter 3. p.152

A "Good" Image of Aid: Trends and Expectations

Interlude 2. p.193

The Damned "Before" Image

Chapter 4. p.207

Sterilizing The Narrative (Or) "You Shoot Like A Journalist"

SECTION 3: VISUAL NARRATIVES, EXPECTATIONS, AND HUMANITARIAN PHOTOGRAPHS AS CONTACT ZONES

Chapter 5. p.260

Welcome to Disneyland (or) "No! Tell her that you're hungry"

Chapter 6. p.311

Breaking Promises and Undermining Expectation: The Struggles of the Negative Humanitarian Imaginary

Conclusion. p.356

Works Cited. p.383

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