Anno Accademico 2023/2024

  • Docente: Pierluigi Musarò
  • Crediti formativi: 8
  • SSD: SPS/08
  • Lingua di insegnamento: Inglese

Conoscenze e abilità da conseguire

At the end of the course, the student will be able to understand and analyze the way the western media covers the developing world and the humanitarian emergencies. Being more specific, the student will be able to understand and analyze: - the emerging and historical humanitarian narratives, with particular reference to the way in which the activities of NGOs are reported; - how we understand and explain faraway disasters; - how the media representations of suffering and violence has changed in the post cold war period and in the digital era; - the relationship between media, aid, corporate communication and branding; - the relationship between power, media and migration.


Media has for long played a central role in shaping the humanitarian field — and perhaps more specifically, the international community’s representations of the humanitarian field. The media’s role in covering humanitarian issues are manifold: from mediating and mediatizing humanitarian crises, initiating or serving as a platform for alerts about unfolding crises, to reporting on underlying causes of crises. Its power to frame perceptions about the key issues at stake in a crisis, or to spark attention through a carefully selected image are well-known. Humanitarian actors are also well aware of this power of media in drawing attention to crises, and thus attracting more political attention and international donations, as can be seen in the ways humanitarian organizations’ campaigns are organized.

This course aims to encourage students to think sociologically about a range of issues and “social problems”  related to the different ways in which media is used to report on humanitarian situations, and what impact this has.

 It also serves as an introduction to some important themes and issues within humanitarianism and migration. Areas under study include: the construction of “social problems”, media, ethics, human rights, migration, climate change, disaster relief, war, famine, refugee camps, social movements, NGOs. A special focus is dedicated to the mediated performances that contribute to create the spectacle of the humanitarian border, which is physically and simbolically enacted by the different actors involved in contemporary management of migration, and strictly related with climate mobilities regimes.

Moving from the assumption that our awareness of nearly all humanitarian issues is defined by the media, this course looks at the literature associated with humanitarian organizations and the NGO narratives, tracing the imagined and real encounters between solidarity, participation, and citizenship in the context of larger social processes of mediation and globalization.

Examining humanitarian communication through various forms of aesthetic activism - documentary, photojournalism, benefit concerts, celebrities, live blogging -  the course invites students to explore how the circulation of humanitarian images and narratives impact the peoples it aims to serve, and what can we learn about global inequality from the stories associated with it.

Finally, the course reflects on long-term implications of the pandemic and climate crisis on mobility justice (Sheller 2018) and what Mbembe (2020) has defined the ‘right to breath’, using intersectional, decolonial, and feminist lenses to decentralize the emergency imaginary and construct new paradigms about narratives on the nexus between climate change and migration.



  • Calhoun Craig (2008): The Imperative to Reduce Suffering: Charity, Progress, and Emergencies in the Field of Humanitarian Action. In: Barnett, Michael/Weiss, Thomas George (eds.):Humanitarianism in Question. Politics, Power, Ethics. Ithaca: Cornell University, 73-97.
  • Chouliaraki Lilie (2012): The Ironic Spectator. Solidarity in the Age of Post-Humanitarianism. Cambridge: Polity Press (Chapters 1 and 2).
  • Fassin Didier (2007): Humanitarianism as a Politics of Life. In: Public Culture, 19 (3), 499-520.
  • Kurasawa Fuyuki (2019): On Humanitarian Virality: Kony 2012, or, The Rise and Fall of a Pictorial Artifact in the Digital Age, Visual Communication
  • Bunce Mel (2019), Humanitarian Communication in a Post-Truth World. In: Journal of Humanitarian Affairs: https://www.manchesteropenhive.com/view/journals/jha/1/1/article-p49.xml
  • Mbembe A. (2019), “Bodies as borders”, in “From the European South. A transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities”, 4. Available at: https://www.fesjournal.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/2.Mbembe.pdf
  • Mbembe, A. (2000): The universal right to breathe, Critical Inquiry. Available at: https://critinq.wordpress.com/2020/04/13/the-universal-right-to-breathe/
  • Scheel Stephan and Tazzioli Martina (2022), Who is a Migrant? Abandoning the Nation-state Point of View in the Study of Migration, Mig. Pol. 1. 
  • Musarò Pierluigi (2019), Aware Migrants: The role of information campaigns in the management of migration, European Journal of Communication, 34, pp. 629 – 640.
  •  Loughnan Claire and Murray Philomena, ‘Combatting Corrosive Narratives about Refugees’, CONREP Policy Report, July 2022 > https://arts.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/4231587/CONREP-Policy-Report-3_Narrative_Loughnan-and-Murray_final.pdf
  •  Pezzani Lorenzo (2021), Hostile Environments, https://www.e-flux.com/architecture/at-the-border/325761/hostile-environments/
  • Bettini G., "Climate Barbarians at the Gate? A critique of apocalyptic narratives on ‘climate refugees’", in Geoforum, 45, 2013, pp. 63-72.
  • Mastrojeni Grammenos (2017), Peace, Security, Land and Sustainable Development, pp. 1-27: https://www.unccd.int/sites/default/files/2018-06/9.%20Peace%2C%2BSecurity%2Band%2BLand__G_Mastrojeni.pdf
  • Connecting Climate Justice & Migrant Justice: A Guide to Countering Dangerous Narratives, Brief guide available at: https://www.jcwi.org.uk/communicating-migrant-justice-a-guide-to-countering-dangerous-narratives 
  • Musarò Pierluigi, Moralli Melissa, Parmiggiani Paola (2019), Borders Kill. Tania Bruguera’s Referendum as an Artistic Strategy of Political Participation, «JOURNAL OF MEDITERRANEAN KNOWLEDGE», 4(2), pp. 137 - 160
  • Musarò Pierluigi, Moralli Melissa (2019), De-Bordering Narratives on Tourism and Migration. A Participatory Action- Research on Two Innovative Italian Practices, Italian Journal of Sociology of Education, 11(2), 147-173.
  • Andemicael A. (2013),The arts in refugee camps: ten good reasons, Forced Migration review: https://www.fmreview.org/fragilestates/andemicael


In preparation of the exam please read the:

- IOM X C4D Toolkit: http://iomx.org/iom-x-c4d-toolkit/

Take these as guides to frame your group analysis, you do not need to follow it closely.

- What policy communication works for migration? Using values to depolarise: https://www.euneighbours.eu/sites/default/files/publications/2020-08/EMM4_OPAM__3rd_chapter_Using_values_to_depolarise.pdf


- https://framingclimatejustice.org/


Further readings and references (book chapters, articles, papers, documents, video) will be provided during the course.

Metodi didattici

A mix of lectures, seminars, collective discussion, student's presentations, documentaries and films on the issues of media and humanitarianism.

Modalità di verifica e valutazione dell'apprendimento

Short Essay 20%

Active participation and group presentation  30%

Final exam                  50%

Participation: Since this is a seminar, active participation in class is a crucial part of your learning.  Through news articles, videos,  web sites, or readings you will help the teacher to stimulate discussion during the class.

Presentation and final exam: This is a research-based presentation – intended as a synthesis of both the literary and political materials we have discussed during the course - that you (or your study group) will read or present to the class in whatever format you wish. Further, there is a final in class exam in which the students are required to answer to some open questions.

Short Essay: This will be on a focused topic of your choice, drawing on research and careful analysis of select readings for the class. Further guidance will be given in class

To pass the course you must pass ALL assessments.

To register the final grade is necessary that you enrol in the official dates in the website Almaesami (https://almaesami.unibo.it/almaesami/welcome.htm) .

For those students who did not pass the exam, or wish to improve their score, it is MANDATORY to write a paper of 5000 words that includes-quotes ALL the papers of the program.

You have to deliver it by email at least 2 weeks before the data of the oral exam and then you will discuss your work (and the program) during the exam.

It is NOT POSSIBLE to do the oral exam if the paper was not delivered before.


If you DO NOT ATTEND the course and you would like to do the exam, please contact the professor in advance.


Strumenti a supporto della didattica

Papers, articles, films and documentaries, web sites.

Orario di ricevimento

Consulta il sito web di Pierluigi Musarò


Sconfiggere la povertà Ridurre le disuguaglianze Lotta contro il cambiamento climatico Pace, giustizia e istituzioni forti

L'insegnamento contribuisce al perseguimento degli Obiettivi di Sviluppo Sostenibile dell'Agenda 2030 dell'ONU.