On the white savior industrial complex
August 3, 2012 8:02 AM Subscribe
Being an object of compassion is not the same thing as being the subject of a story. “I used to joke—and I want to emphasize this is a joke—that you could write that you’d wandered into some obscure backwater in Africa where people had three ears", tells a former NYT correspondent to the Boston Review. The expression white savior industrial complex, coined by Teju Cole in response to the Kony 2012 debâcle highlights the problem of reifying historical processes: it becomes something to be used and milked either as NGO "margins" or as fodder for disaster media. How many older people equate India with "endemic hunger" rather than "emerging power", and how many roads must Africa walk down before we stop calling them war-hungry savages? And is the objectifying discourse a cause or a symptom (or both) of the complex problem of even thinking about Africa?
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