Parodying humanitarianism online

February 26, 2018

Call for papers

Networking Knowledge – Special Issue

Parodying humanitarianism online

Abstracts of 200 words are invited from early career researchers by February 10, 2019, for consideration for publication.

This special issue calls for contributions that interrogate the role of online media parodies in complicating the rhetoric and practices of humanitarianism and charity.

A ‘parody’ can be defined as a humorous or satirical text that imitates the style or appearance of another piece of work, or the voice of its author. In the context of humanitarianism, our interest is in parodies that appear on online media platforms that provide ‘critiques’ of various representations and practices of humanitarianism. Most often, these target poorly contextualised, stereotypical and de-humanising fundraising and advocacy narratives and imagery, and forms of individual ‘do-gooding’. Examples include, comedian Trevor Noah’s UNICEF fly, Radi-Aid’s Africa for Norway, and Teju Cole’s piece, ‘The White-Savior Industrial Complex’. The central questions that this special issue asks are influenced by a debate that Lisa Ann Richey (n.d.)[1] has initiated on ‘satirizing everyday humanitarianism’:

  • do such online parodies promote critical thought or add a further layers of complexity to contemporary humanitarianism’s increasingly commodified edifice? –
  • to what extent do these parodies actually affect relationships or imbalances of power between humanitarian institutions and ‘beneficiaries’?
  • beyond parody, can humour/comedy play a constructive role in development or humanitarian communications to different audiences?

This special issue is particularly seeking contributions that examine how the functions, practices, and ecologies of new media sites enable such forms of critiques of humanitarianism. We ask how online media parodies can be situated within theories of humanitarian communication and mediation, while also attempting to critically explore how the instantaneous and interactive nature of communications of digital technologies provides new opportunities and challenges in critiquing everyday humanitarianism. For example, drawing on Lisa Colletta (2009)[2], how do online media allow for engagement between the satirist and the viewer that is fundamental to ensuring the effectiveness of a parody? Furthermore, influenced by Leah Lievrouw (2011)[3], can parodies be considered as a form of ‘culture jamming’ whose purpose involves ‘subverting and critiquing’ images and ideas of the mainstream humanitarianism media culture? Moreover, how do the communicative ecologies of new media allow for the re-shaping of understandings of the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ relationship, and do parody accounts, aided by new media, point towards key shifts in the traditional relations of communications power? We invite articles from across disciplines of media, communications, and culture, conflict and security, and international development, and those that offer fresh ‘critiques of the critiques’ of humanitarianism. 

Within the context of new media, parodies, and humanitarianism, topics of interest for this special issue include, but are not limited to:

  • Theoretical and methodological approaches
  • Forms of online media parodies, purposes and practices
  • New media ecologies and subversive spaces/techniques
  • Strategies of persuasion and ethical considerations
  • Parody as breaking stereotypes in humanitarian discourse
  • Parody as challenging the traditional ‘us’ vs ‘them’ narrative
  • Parody as reaffirming myths in humanitarian discourse
  • Public engagement with parody
  • Parody, right to represent and consent
  • Limits of parody

 Abstracts of 200 words are invited from early career researchers by February 10, 2019, for consideration for publication. Please submit abstracts to: Madhushala Senaratne ( and Peter Chonka ( Abstracts must also include: name of author, affiliation, contact details, and 5-6 keywords. Selected authors will be notified by February 20, 2019. The deadline for submission of full papers (up to 6000 words) is April 30, 2019.



[1] Richey, L. A. (n.d.) ‘Humanitarianism’, I-PEEL - International Political Economy of Everyday Life. ,

[2] Colletta, L. (2009) ‘Political Satire and Postmodern Irony in the Age of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart’, The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 42, No. 5. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5931.2009.00711.x

[3] Lievrouw, L. A. (2011) Alternative and activist new media, Cambridge: Polity Press