Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

Watching the pain of others: audience discourses of distant suffering in Greece

Kyriakidou, Maria (2011) Watching the pain of others: audience discourses of distant suffering in Greece. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Download (1MB) | Preview


This thesis explores the moral implications of watching suffering on the media. In particular, it addresses the question of how audiences construct their moral agency vis-à-vis the suffering of distant others they witness through television news. Theoretically, the thesis takes as a point of departure the concept of mediation as media practices. Based on an underlying assumption of moral agency as discursively constructed and articulated, I have drawn an analytical framework which employs the discursive practices of media witnessing and media remembering to explore the ways audiences talk about distant suffering and position themselves in relation to it. The thesis is empirically grounded in the context of Greece and based on focus group discussions with members of the Greek audience. The empirical analysis indicates that viewers engage with distant suffering in a multiplicity of ways that are not exhausted in feelings of empathy or compassion and their diametric opposites of apathy and compassion fatigue. These forms of engagement are filtered through both the nature and extent of media reports of suffering, and discourses about power and politics entrenched within the national culture. In this context, the analysis demonstrates that viewers position themselves as witnesses vis-à-vis news reports of distant suffering in four different modes, which are described as “affective”, “ecstatic”, “politicised” and “detached” witnessing. The exploration of the practice of media remembering illustrates the construction of a moral hierarchy in the way viewers remember distant suffering, where some events are constructed as banal and others become landmarks in audience memory. Finally, the viewers’ positioning as public actors with regard to media stories of human pain is shown to be, on the one hand, conditional upon the media staging of humanitarian appeals, and, on the other hand, embedded within and limited by frameworks of understanding civic participation in public life. The thesis contributes to a growing body of literature on the mediation of distant suffering. It especially addresses the largely neglected empirical question of audience engagement with media stories of human pain, offering both empirical evidence and an analytical framework for the study of this engagement.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Maria Kyriakidou
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Supervisor: Chouliaraki, Lilie

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics