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Finding a Voice Through 'Humanitarian Technologies'?

Fri, May 22, 10:30 to 11:45, Caribe Hilton, Tropical B


Voice, understood as the ability to give an account of oneself (Butler 2005; Couldry 2010) and participate in social processes (Tacchi 2008) is increasingly recognised as significant for humanitarian action and disaster recovery. Giving people the opportunity to make their voices heard has the potential to democratize humanitarianism and correct the power asymmetries on which it is based. Humanitarian agencies have embraced interactive communication technologies as tools for voice. Drawing on a year long ethnography with communities affected by super-Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines our paper assesses the potential of new media for voice. Our findings highlight a disconnect between assumptions about technology present in humanitarian policies and the actual uses of technology by affected populations. Communication technologies only facilitate voice if other parameters such as a strong civil society, are present. Further, we observe that opportunities for voice are stratified mapping onto existing social inequalities.