• Home

Reflection Paper

Publics and Counterpublics

Warner, Michael, 1958-

Public Culture, Volume 14, Number 1, Winter 2002, pp. 49-90 (Article)

Published by Duke University Press

For additional information about this article

Access Provided by University of Washington @ Seattle at 03/28/11 4:59PM GMT



Publics and Counterpublics

Michael Warner

This essay has a public. If you are reading (or hearing) this, you are part of itspublic. So first let me say: Welcome. Of course, you might stop reading (or
leave the room), and someone else might start (or enter). Would the public of this
essay therefore be different? Would it ever be possible to know anything about
the public to which, I hope, you still belong?

What is a public? It is a curiously obscure question, considering that few
things have been more important in the development of modernity. Publics have
become an essential fact of the social landscape, and yet it would tax our under-
standing to say exactly what they are. Several senses of the noun public tend to
be intermixed in usage. People do not always distinguish between the public and
a public, although in some contexts this difference can matter a great deal.

The public is a kind of social totality. Its most common sense is that of the peo-
ple in general. It might be the people organized as the nation, the commonwealth,
the city, the state, or some other community. It might be very general, as in Chris-
tendom or humanity. But in each case the public, as a people, is thought to include
everyone within the field in question. This sense of totality is brought out in
speaking of the public, even though to speak of a national public implies that oth-
ers exist; there must be as many publics as polities, but whenever one is addressed
as the public, the others are assumed not to matter.

Public Culture 14(1): 49 – 90
Copyright © 2002 by Duke University Press

This essay has been abridged from the title essay of the volume Publics and Counterpublics,
forthcoming from Zone Books. I thank the Center for Transcultural Studies.


A public can also be a second thing: a concrete audience, a crowd witnessing
itself in visible space, as with a theatrical public. Such a public also has a sense of
totality, bounded by the event or by the shared physical space. A performer on
stage knows where her public is, how big it is, where its boundaries are, and what
the time of its common existence is. A crowd at a sports event, a concert, or a riot
might be a bit blurrier around the edges, but still knows itself by knowing where
and when it is assembled in common visibility and common action.

I will return to both of these senses, but what I mainly want to clarify in this
essay is a third sense of public: the kind of public that comes into being only in
relation to texts and their circulation — like the public of this essay. (Nice to have
you with us, still.) The distinctions among these three senses are not always
sharp and are not simply the difference between oral and written contexts. When
an essay is read aloud as a lecture at a university, for example, the concrete audi-
ence of hearers understands itself as standing in for a more indefinite audience of
readers. And often, when a form of discourse is not addressing an institutional or
subcultural audience, such as members of a profession, its audience can under-
stand itself not just as a public but as the public. In such cases, different senses of
audience and circulation are in play at once. Examples like this suggest that it is
worth understanding the distinctions better, if only because the transpositions
among them can have important social effects.

The idea of a public, as distinct from both the public and any bounded audi-
ence, has become part of the common repertoire of modern culture. Everyone
intuitively understands how it works. On reflection, however, its rules can seem
rather odd. I would like to bring some of our intuitive understanding into the
open in order to speculate about the history of the form and the role it plays in
constructing our social world.

1. A public is self-organized.

A public is a space of discourse organized by nothing other than discourse
itself. It is autotelic; it exists only as the end for which books are published,
shows broadcast, Web sites posted, speeches delivered, opinions produced. It
exists by virtue of being addressed.

A kind of chicken-and-egg circularity confronts us in the idea of a public.
Could anyone speak publicly without addressing a public? But how can this pub-
lic exist before being addressed? What would a public be if no one were address-
ing it? Can a public really exist apart from the rhetoric through which it is imag-
ined? If you were to put down this essay and turn on the television, would my
public be different? How can the existence of a public depend, from one point of

Public Culture


Publics and



view, on the rhetorical address — and, from another point of view, on the real
context of reception?

These questions cannot be resolved on one side or the other. The circularity is
essential to the phenomenon. A public might be real and efficacious, but its real-
ity lies in just this reflexivity by which an addressable object is conjured into
being in order to enable the very discourse that gives it existence.

A public in this sense is as much notional as empirical. It is also partial, since
there could be an infinite number of publics within the social totality. This sense
of the term is completely modern; it is the only kind of public for which there is
no other term. Neither crowd nor audience nor people nor group will capture the
same sense. The difference shows us that the idea of a public, unlike a concrete
audience or the public of any polity, is text-based — even though publics are
increasingly organized around visual or audio texts. Without the idea of texts
that can be picked up at different times and in different places by otherwise
unrelated people, we would not imagine a public as an entity that embraces all
the users of that text, whoever they might be. Often, the texts themselves are not
even recognized as texts — as for example with visual advertising or the chatter-
ing of a DJ— but the publics they bring into being are still discursive in the
same way.

The strangeness of this kind of public is often hidden from view because the
assumptions that enable the bourgeois public sphere allow us to think of a dis-
course public as a people and, therefore, as an actually existing set of potentially
enumerable humans. A public, in practice, appears as the public. It is easy to be
misled by this appearance. Even in the blurred usage of the public sphere, a pub-
lic is never just a congeries of people, never just the sum of persons who happen
to exist. It must first of all have some way of organizing itself as a body and of
being addressed in discourse. And not just any way of defining the totality will
do. It must be organized by something other than the state.

Here we see how the autotelic circularity of the discourse public is not merely
a puzzle for analysis, but also the crucial factor in the social importance of the
form. A public organizes itself independently of state institutions, law, formal
frameworks of citizenship, or preexisting institutions such as the church. If it
were not possible to think of the public as organized independently of the state or
other frameworks, the public could not be sovereign with respect to the state. So
the modern sense of the public as the social totality in fact derives much of its
character from the way we understand the partial publics of discourse, like the
public of this essay, as self-organized. The way the public functions in the public
sphere — as the people — is only possible because it is really a public of dis-

course. It is self-creating and self-organized, and herein lies its power as well as
its elusive strangeness.

In the kind of modern society that the idea of publics has enabled, the self-
organization of discourse publics has immense resonance from the point of view
of individuals. Speaking, writing, and thinking involve us — actively and imme-
diately — in a public, and thus in the being of the sovereign. Imagine how power-
less people would feel if their commonality and participation were simply
defined by pre-given frameworks, by institutions and law, as in other social con-
texts it is through kinship. What would the world look like if all ways of being
public were more like applying for a driver’s license or subscribing to a profes-
sional group — if, that is, formally organized mediations replaced the self-organized
public as the image of belonging and common activity? Such is the image of
totalitarianism: nonkin society organized by bureaucracy and the law. Everyone’s
position, function, and capacity for action are specified for her by administration.
The powerlessness of the person in such a world haunts modern capitalism as
well. Our lives are minutely administered and recorded to a degree unprece-
dented in history; we navigate a world of corporate agents that do not respond or
act as people do. Our personal capacities, such as credit, turn out on reflection to
be expressions of corporate agency. Without a faith — justified or not — in self-
organized publics, organically linked to our activity in their very existence, capa-
ble of being addressed, and capable of action, we would be nothing but the peas-
ants of capital — which of course we might be, and some of us more than others.

In the idea of a public, political confidence is committed to a strange and
uncertain destination. Sometimes it can seem too strange. Often, one cannot
imagine addressing a public capable of comprehension or action. This is espe-
cially true for people in minor or marginal positions, or people distributed across
political systems. The result can be a kind of political depressiveness, a blockage
in activity and optimism — a disintegration of politics toward isolation, frustra-
tion, anomie, forgetfulness. This possibility, never far out of the picture, reveals
by contrast how much ordinary belonging requires confidence in a public. Confi-
dence in the possibility of a public is not simply the professional habit of the pow-
erful, of the pundits and wonks and reaction-shot secondary celebrities who try
to perform our publicness for us; the same confidence remains vital for people
whose place in public media is one of consuming, witnessing, griping, or gossip-
ing rather than one of full participation or fame. Whether faith is justified or
partly ideological, a public can only produce a sense of belonging and activity if
it is self-organized through discourse rather than through an external framework.
This is why any distortion or blockage in access to a public can be so grave, lead-

Public Culture


Publics and



1. An instructive review of the methodological problems posed by such a project can be found in
Communications and Public Opinion: A Public Opinion Quarterly Reader, ed. Robert O. Carlson
(New York: Praeger, 1975); see, in particular, Floyd D. Allport, “Toward a Science of Public Opinion,”
and Harwood Childs, “By Public Opinion I Mean ———.”

ing people to feel powerless and frustrated. Externally organized frameworks of
activity, such as voting, are perceived to be (and are) a poor substitute.

Yet perhaps just because it does seem so important to belong to a public or to
be able to know something about the public to which one belongs, such substi-
tutes have been produced in abundance. People have tried hard to find or make
some external way of identifying the public, of resolving its circularity into either
chicken or egg. The idea that the public might be as changeable, and as unknow-
able, as the public of this essay (are you still with me?) seems to weaken the very
political optimism that the accessibility of the public allows.

Pollsters and some social scientists think that their method is a way to define
a public as a group that could be studied empirically, independently from its own
discourse about itself. Early in the history of research in communications theory
and public relations, it was recognized that such research was going to be diffi-
cult, since multiple publics exist and one can belong to many different publics
simultaneously. Public opinion researchers have a long history of unsatisfying
debate about this problem in method. What determines whether one belongs to a
public or not? Space and physical presence do not make much difference; a pub-
lic is understood to be different from a crowd, an audience, or any other group
that requires co-presence. Personal identity does not in itself make one part of a
public. Publics differ from nations, races, professions, or any other groups that,
though not requiring co-presence, saturate identity. Belonging to a public seems
to require at least minimal participation, even if it is patient or notional, rather
than a permanent state of being. Merely paying attention can be enough to make
you a member. How, then, could a public be quantified?1

Some have tried to define a public in terms of a common interest, speaking for
example of a foreign-policy public or a sports public. But this way of speaking
only pretends to escape the conundrum of the self-creating public. It is like
explaining the popularity of films or novels as a response to market demand; the
claim is circular because market “demand” is entirely inferred from the popular-
ity of the works themselves. The idea of a common interest, like that of a market
demand, appears to identify the social base of public discourse, but the base is in
fact projected from the public discourse itself rather than being external to it.

Of all the contrivances designed to escape this circularity, the most powerful

by far has been the invention of polling. Polling, together with related forms of
market research, tries to tell us what the interests, desires, and demands of a pub-
lic are without simply inferring them from public discourse. It is an elaborate
apparatus designed to characterize a public as social fact independent of any dis-
cursive address or circulation. As Pierre Bourdieu pointed out, however, this
method proceeds by denying the constitutive role of polling itself as a mediating
form.2 Jürgen Habermas and others have further stressed that the device now sys-
tematically distorts the public sphere, producing something that passes as public
opinion when in fact it results from a form that has none of the open-endedness,
reflexive framing, or accessibility of public discourse. I would add that it lacks
the embodied creativity and world-making of publicness. Publics have to be
understood as mediated by cultural forms, even though some of those forms, such
as polling, work by denying their own constitutive role as cultural forms. Publics
do not exist apart from the discourse that addresses them. Are they therefore
internal to discourse?

Literary studies has often understood a public as a rhetorical addressee, implied
within texts. But the term is generally understood to name something about the
text’s worldliness, its actual destination — which may or may not resemble its
addressee. Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, to take a famous example, remained
addressed to his son even after Franklin severed relations with him and decided
to publish the text; the public of the autobiography was crucially nonidentical
with its addressee. Of course, one can distinguish in such a case between the
nominal addressee and the implied addressee, but it is equally possible to distin-
guish between an implied addressee of rhetoric and a targeted public of circula-
tion. That these are not identical is what allows people to shape the public by
addressing it in a certain way. It also allows people to fail, if a rhetorical addressee
is not picked up as the reflection of a public.

The sense that a public is a worldly constraint on speech, and not just a free
creation of speech, gives plausibility to the opposite approach, that of the social
sciences. The self-organized nature of the public does not mean that it is always
spontaneous or organically expressive of individuals’ wishes. In fact, although
the premise of self-organizing discourse is necessary to the peculiar cultural arti-
fact that we call a public, it is contradicted both by material limits — the means of
production and distribution, the physical textual objects themselves, the social
conditions of access to them — and by internal ones, including the need to pre-

Public Culture


2. The critique of polling appears in a number of contexts in Bourdieu’s work; see “Opinion Polls:
A ‘Science’ without a Scientist,” in Pierre Bourdieu, In Other Words: Essays toward a Reflexive Soci-
ology, trans. Matthew Adamson (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990).

Publics and



suppose forms of intelligibility already in place as well as the social closure
entailed by any selection of genre, idiolect, style, address, and so forth. I will
return to these constraints of circulation. For the moment I want to emphasize
that they are made to seem arbitrary because of the performativity of public address
and the self-organization implied by the idea of a public.

Another way of saying the same thing is that any empirical extension of the
public will seem arbitrarily limited because the addressee of public discourse is
always yet to be realized. In some contexts of speech and writing, both the rhetor-
ical addressee and the public have a fairly clear empirical referent: in most paper
correspondence and e-mail, in the reports and memos that are passed up and
down bureaucracies, in love notes and valentines and Dear John letters, the object
of address is understood to be an identifiable person or office. Even if that
addressee already occupies a generalized role — for example, a personnel com-
mittee, or Congress, or a church congregation — it is definite, known, nameable,
and enumerable. The interaction is framed by a social relationship. The concrete
addressee in these cases is different from a public.

But for another class of writing contexts — including literary criticism, jour-
nalism, “theory,” advertising, fiction, drama, most poetry — the available addressees
are essentially imaginary, which is not to say unreal. The people, scholarship, the
Republic of Letters, posterity, the younger generation, the nation, the Left, the
movement, the world, the vanguard, the enlightened few, right-thinking people
everywhere, public opinion, the brotherhood of all believers, humanity, my fel-
low queers: these are all publics. They are in principle open-ended. They exist by
virtue of their address.

Although such publics are imaginary, writing to a public is not imaginary in
the same way as writing to Pinocchio is. All public addressees have some social
basis. Their imaginary character is never merely a matter of private fantasy. (By
the same token, all addressees are to some extent imaginary — even that of a
journal, especially if one writes to one’s ideal self, one’s posthumous biographers,
etc.) They fail if they have no reception in the world, but the exact composition
of their addressed publics cannot entirely be known in advance. A public is
always in excess of its known social basis. It must be more than a list of one’s
friends. It must include strangers.

Let me call this a second defining premise of the modern idea of a public:

2. A public is a relation among strangers.

Other kinds of writing — writing that has a definite addressee who can be
known in advance — can, of course, go astray. Writing to a public incorporates

that tendency of writing or speech as a condition of possibility. It cannot go
astray in the same way because reaching strangers is its primary orientation. In
modernity, this understanding of the public is best illustrated by uses of print or
electronic media, but it can also be extended to scenes of audible speech, if that
speech is oriented to indefinite strangers, once the crucial background horizon of
“public opinion” and its social imaginary has been made available. We’ve become
capable of recognizing ourselves as strangers even when we know each other.
Declaiming this essay to a group of intimates, I could still be heard as addressing
a public.

The orientation to strangers is in one sense implied by a public’s self-organi-
zation through discourse. A public sets its boundaries and its organization by its
own discourse rather than by external frameworks only if it openly addresses
people who are identified primarily through their participation in the discourse
and who therefore cannot be known in advance. Indeed, a public might almost
be said to be stranger-relationality in a pure form, because other ways of orga-
nizing strangers — nations, religions, races, guilds, and so on — have manifest
positive content. They select strangers by criteria of territory or identity or belief
or some other test of membership. One can address strangers in such contexts
because a common identity has been established through independent means or
institutions (e.g., creeds, armies, parties). A public, however, unites strangers
through participation alone, at least in theory. Strangers come into relationship
by its means, though the resulting social relationship might be peculiarly indi-
rect and unspecifiable.

Once this kind of public is in place as a social imaginary, I might add,
stranger-sociability inevitably takes on a different character. In modern society, a
stranger is not as marvelously exotic as the wandering outsider would have been
in an ancient, medieval, or early modern town. In that earlier social order, or in
contemporary analogues, a stranger is mysterious, a disturbing presence requir-
ing resolution.3 In the context of a public, however, strangers can be treated as
already belonging to our world. More: they must be. We are routinely oriented to
them in common life. They are a normal feature of the social.

Public Culture


3. It is this ancient exotic that figures in Georg Simmel’s much-cited 1908 essay “The Stranger.”
Simmel fails to distinguish between the stranger as represented by the trader or the Wandering Jew
and the stranger whose presence in modernity is unremarkable, even necessary, to the nature of mod-
ern polities. One of the defining elements of modernity, in my view, is normative stranger-sociability,
of a kind that seems to arise only when the social imaginary is defined not by kinship (as in nonstate
societies) or by place (as in state societies until the advent of modernity), but by discourse. Simmel,
“The Stranger,” in On Individuality and Social Forms: Selected Writings, ed. Donald N. Levine
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971).

Publics and



Strangers in the ancient sense — foreign, alien, misplaced — might of course
be located to a degree within Christendom, the ummah, a guild, or an army —
affiliations one might share with strangers, making them a bit less strange.
Strangers placed by means of these affiliations are on a path to commonality.
Publics orient us to strangers in a different way. They are no longer merely
people-whom-one-does-not-yet-know; rather, it can be said that an environment
of strangerhood is the necessary premise of some of our most prized ways of
being. Where otherwise strangers need to be placed on a path to commonality, in
modern forms strangerhood is the necessary medium of commonality. The mod-
ern social imaginary does not make sense without strangers. A nation, market, or
public in which everyone could be known personally would be no nation, market,
or public at all. This constitutive and normative environment of strangerhood is
more, too, than an objectively describable gesellschaft; it requires our constant

The expansive force of these cultural forms cannot be understood apart from
the way they make stranger-relationality normative, reshaping the most intimate
dimensions of subjectivity around co-membership with indefinite persons in a
context of routine action. The development of forms that mediate the intimate
theater of stranger-relationality must surely be one of the most significant
dimensions of modern history, though the story of this transformation in the
meaning of the stranger has been told only in fragments. It is hard to imagine
such abstract modes of being as rights-bearing personhood, species-being, and
sexuality, for example, without forms that give concrete shape to the interactivity
of those who have no idea with whom they are interacting. This dependence on
the co-presence of strangers in our innermost activity, when we continue to think
of strangerhood and intimacy as opposites, has at least some latent contradic-
tions — many of which come to the fore, as we shall see, in counterpublic forms
that make expressive corporeality the material for the elaboration of intimate life
among publics of strangers.

The oddness of this orientation to strangers in public discourse can be under-
stood better if we consider a third defining feature of discourse that addresses
publics, one that follows from the address to strangers but is very difficult to

3. The address of public speech is both personal and impersonal.

Public speech can have great urgency and intimate import. Yet we know that it
was addressed not exactly to us, but to the stranger we were until the moment we
happened to be addressed by it. (I am thinking here of any genre addressed to a

public, including novels and lyrics as well as criticism, other nonfictional prose,
and almost all genres of radio, television, film, and Web discourse.) To inhabit
public discourse is to perform this transition continually, and to some extent it
remains present to consciousness. Public speech must be taken in two ways: as
addressed to us and as addressed to strangers. The benefit in this practice is that it
gives a general social relevance to private thought and life. Our subjectivity is
understood as having resonance with others, and immediately so. But this is only
true to the extent that the trace of our strangerhood remains present in our under-
standing of ourselves as the addressee.

This necessary element of impersonality in public address is one of the things
missed from view in the Althusserian notion of interpellation, at least as it is cur-
rently understood. Louis Althusser’s famous example is speech addressed to a
stranger: a policeman says, “Hey, you!” In the moment of recognizing oneself as
the person addressed, the moment of turning around, one is interpellated as the
subject of state discourse.4 Althusser’s analysis had the virtue of showing the
importance of imaginary identification — and locating it, not in the coercive or
punitive force of the state, but in the subjective practice of understanding. When
the model of interpellation is extracted from his example to account for public cul-
ture generally, the analysis will be skewed because the case Althusser gives is not
an example of public discourse. A policeman who says “Hey, you!” will be under-
stood to be addressing a particular person, not a public. When one turns around, it
is partly to see whether one is that person. If not, one goes on. If so, then all the
others who might be standing on the street are bystanders, not addressees.

With public speech, by contrast, we might recognize ourselves as addressees,
but it is equally important that we remember that the speech was addressed to
indefinite others; that in singling us out, it does so not on the basis of our concrete
identity, but by virtue of our participation in the discourse alone, and therefore in
common with strangers. It isn’t just that we are addressed in public as certain
kinds of persons, or that we might not want to identify as that person (though this
is also often enough the case, as when the public is addressed as heterosexual, or
white, or sports-minded, or American). We haven’t been misidentified, exactly. It
seems more to the point to say that publics are different from persons, that the
address of public rhetoric is never going to be the same as address to actual per-
sons, and that our partial nonidentity with the object of address in public speech
seems to be part of what it means to regard something as public speech.

Public Culture


4. Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” in Lenin and Philosophy, and
Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971).

Publics and



5. See, for example, Patricia Spacks, Gossip (New York: Knopf, 1985), especially 121 – 46; and
James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven, Conn.:
Yale University Press, 1985).

6. “The right to gossip about certain people,” Max Gluckman writes in a classic essay, “is a privi-
lege which is only extended to a person when he or she is accepted as a member of a group or set. It
is a hallmark of membership.” Moreover, this kind of membership tends to presuppose others, such as
kin groups, equally distant from stranger-sociability. “To be a Makah [the Northwest Amerindian
group discussed by Gluckman] you must be able to join in the gossip, and to be fully a Makah you
must be able to scandalize skillfully. This entails that you know the individual family histories of your
fellows; for the knowledgeable can hit at you through your ancestry” (“Gossip and Scandal,” Current
Anthropology 4 [1963]: 313, 311).

It might be helpful to think of public address in contrast with gossip. Gossip
might seem to be a perfect instance of public discourse. It circulates widely
among a social network, beyond the control of private individuals. It sets norms
of membership in a diffuse way that cannot be controlled by a central authority.
For these reasons, a number of scholars have celebrated its potential for popular
sociability and for the weak-group politics of women, peasants, and others.5

But gossip is never a relation among strangers. You gossip about particular
people and to particular people. What you can get away with saying depends very
much on whom you are talking to and what your status is in that person’s eyes.
Speak ill of someone when you are not thought to have earned the privilege and
you will be taken as slandering rather than gossiping. Gossip circulates without
the awareness of some people, and it must be prevented from reaching them in
the wrong way. Intensely personal measurements of group membership, relative
standing, and trust are the constant and unavoidable pragmatic work of gossip.6

The appeal to strangers in the circulating forms of public address thus helps us
to distinguish public discourse from forms that address particular persons in their
singularity. It remains less clear how a public could be translated into an image of
the public, a social entity. Who is the public? Does it include my neighbors? The
doorman in my building? My students? The people who show up in the gay bars
and clubs? The bodega owners down the street from me? Someone who calls me
on the phone or sends me an e-mail? You? We encounter people in such disparate
contexts that the idea of a body to which they all belong, and in which they could
be addressed in speech, seems to have something wishful about it. To address a
public, w

Reflection Paper


Print | Close

The White-Savior Industrial
By Teju Cole

If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.

Left, Invisible Children’s Jason Russell. Right, a protest leader in Lagos, Nigeria / Facebook, AP

A week and a half ago, I watched the Kony2012 video. Afterward, I wrote a brief seven-part response,
which I posted in sequence on my Twitter account:

The White-Savior Industrial Complex — Global — The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/international/print/2012/03/the-whit…

1 of 8 4/16/15 10:29 AM

1- From Sachs to Kristof to Invisible Children to TED, the
fastest growth industry in the US is the White Savior
Industrial Complex.
9:33 AM – 8 Mar 2012

Teju Cole



2- The white savior supports brutal policies in the
morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives
awards in the evening.
9:34 AM – 8 Mar 2012

Teju Cole



3- The banality of evil transmutes into the banality of
sentimentality. The world is nothing but a problem to be
solved by enthusiasm.
9:35 AM – 8 Mar 2012

Teju Cole



4- This world exists simply to satisfy the needs—
including, importantly, the sentimental needs—of white
people and Oprah.
9:36 AM – 8 Mar 2012

Teju Cole



The White-Savior Industrial Complex — Global — The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/international/print/2012/03/the-whit…

2 of 8 4/16/15 10:29 AM

5- The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about
justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that
validates privilege.
9:37 AM – 8 Mar 2012

Teju Cole



6- Feverish worry over that awful African warlord. But
close to 1.5 million Iraqis died from an American war of
choice. Worry about that.
9:38 AM – 8 Mar 2012

Teju Cole



7- I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one
respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it,
for you know it is deadly.
9:39 AM – 8 Mar 2012

Teju Cole



These tweets were retweeted, forwarded, and widely shared by readers. They migrated beyond Twitter
to blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, and other sites; I’m told they generated fierce arguments. As the days went
by, the tweets were reproduced in their entirety on the websites of the Atlantic and the New York
Times, and they showed up on German, Spanish, and Portuguese sites. A friend emailed to tell me that
the fourth tweet, which cheekily name-checks Oprah, was mentioned on Fox television.

These sentences of mine, written without much premeditation, had touched a nerve. I heard back from
many people who were grateful to have read them. I heard back from many others who were
disappointed or furious. Many people, too many to count, called me a racist. One person likened me to
the Mau Mau. The Atlantic writer who’d reproduced them, while agreeing with my broader points,
described the language in which they were expressed as “resentment.”

This weekend, I listened to a radio interview given by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas
Kristof. Kristof is best known for his regular column in the New York Times in which he often gives

The White-Savior Industrial Complex — Global — The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/international/print/2012/03/the-whit…

3 of 8 4/16/15 10:29 AM


The Decline of
Why We Love to
Hate Kony 2012

The Soft Bigotry
of Kony 2012

Kony 2012:
Solving War
Crimes With

Obama’s War on
the LRA

The Bizarre and
Horrifying Story
of the LRA

accounts of his activism or that of other Westerners. When I saw the Kony 2012 video, I found it
tonally similar to Kristof’s approach, and that was why I mentioned him in the first of my seven tweets.

Those tweets, though unpremeditated, were intentional in
their irony and seriousness. I did not write them to score
cheap points, much less to hurt anyone’s feelings. I
believed that a certain kind of language is too infrequently
seen in our public discourse. I am a novelist. I traffic in
subtleties, and my goal in writing a novel is to leave the
reader not knowing what to think. A good novel shouldn’t
have a point.

But there’s a place in the political sphere for direct speech
and, in the past few years in the U.S., there has been a
chilling effect on a certain kind of direct speech pertaining
to rights. The president is wary of being seen as the “angry
black man.” People of color, women, and gays — who now
have greater access to the centers of influence that ever
before — are under pressure to be well-behaved when
talking about their struggles. There is an expectation that
we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a
sinner: newspapers love to describe words or deeds as
“racially charged” even in those cases when it would be
more honest to say “racist”; we agree that there is rampant
misogyny, but misogynists are nowhere to be found;
homophobia is a problem but no one is homophobic. One
cumulative effect of this policed language is that when
someone dares to point out something as obvious as white
privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized
voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak
plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced
civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely
from the discourse.

It’s only in the context of this neutered language that my
rather tame tweets can be seen as extreme. The
interviewer on the radio show I listened to asked Kristof if
he had heard of me. “Of course,” he said. She asked him
what he made of my criticisms. His answer was considered
and genial, but what he said worried me more than an
angry outburst would have:

There has been a real discomfort and backlash

The White-Savior Industrial Complex — Global — The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/international/print/2012/03/the-whit…

4 of 8 4/16/15 10:29 AM

among middle-class educated Africans, Ugandans in particular in this case, but people more
broadly, about having Africa as they see it defined by a warlord who does particularly brutal
things, and about the perception that Americans are going to ride in on a white horse and
resolve it. To me though, it seems even more uncomfortable to think that we as white Americans
should not intervene in a humanitarian disaster because the victims are of a different skin color.

Here are some of the “middle-class educated Africans” Kristof, whether he is familiar with all of them
and their work or not, chose to take issue with: Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire, who covered
the Lord’s Resistance Army in 2005 and made an eloquent video response to Kony 2012; Ugandan
scholar Mahmood Mamdani, one of the world’s leading specialists on Uganda and the author of a
thorough riposte to the political wrong-headedness of Invisible Children; and Ethiopian-American
novelist Dinaw Mengestu, who sought out Joseph Kony, met his lieutenants, and recently wrote a
brilliant essay about how Kony 2012 gets the issues wrong. They have a different take on what Kristof
calls a “humanitarian disaster,” and this may be because they see the larger disasters behind it:
militarization of poorer countries, short-sighted agricultural policies, resource extraction, the propping
up of corrupt governments, and the astonishing complexity of long-running violent conflicts over a
wide and varied terrain.

I want to tread carefully here: I do not accuse Kristof of racism nor do I believe he is in any way racist. I
have no doubt that he has a good heart. Listening to him on the radio, I began to think we could iron
the whole thing out over a couple of beers. But that, precisely, is what worries me. That is what made
me compare American sentimentality to a “wounded hippo.” His good heart does not always allow him
to think constellationally. He does not connect the dots or see the patterns of power behind the isolated
“disasters.” All he sees are hungry mouths, and he, in his own advocacy-by-journalism way, is putting
food in those mouths as fast as he can. All he sees is need, and he sees no need to reason out the need
for the need.

But I disagree with the approach taken by Invisible Children in particular, and by the White Savior
Industrial Complex in general, because there is much more to doing good work than “making a
difference.” There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped
ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them.

I write all this from multiple positions. I write as an African, a black man living in America. I am every
day subject to the many microaggressions of American racism. I also write this as an American,
enjoying the many privileges that the American passport affords and that residence in this country
makes possible. I involve myself in this critique of privilege: my own privileges of class, gender, and
sexuality are insufficiently examined. My cell phone was likely manufactured by poorly treated workers
in a Chinese factory. The coltan in the phone can probably be traced to the conflict-riven Congo. I don’t
fool myself that I am not implicated in these transnational networks of oppressive practices.

And I also write all this as a novelist and story-writer: I am sensitive to the power of narratives. When
Jason Russell, narrator of the Kony 2012 video, showed his cheerful blonde toddler a photo of Joseph
Kony as the embodiment of evil (a glowering dark man), and of his friend Jacob as the representative
of helplessness (a sweet-faced African), I wondered how Russell’s little boy would develop a nuanced

The White-Savior Industrial Complex — Global — The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/international/print/2012/03/the-whit…

5 of 8 4/16/15 10:29 AM

sense of the lives of others, particularly others of a different race from his own. How would that little
boy come to understand that others have autonomy; that their right to life is not exclusive of a right to
self-respect? In a different context, John Berger once wrote, “A singer may be innocent; never the

One song we hear too often is the one in which Africa serves as a backdrop for white fantasies of
conquest and heroism. From the colonial project to Out of Africa to The Constant Gardener and Kony
2012, Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected. It is a liberated
space in which the usual rules do not apply: a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and
become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied. Many have done
it under the banner of “making a difference.” To state this obvious and well-attested truth does not
make me a racist or a Mau Mau. It does give me away as an “educated middle-class African,” and I
plead guilty as charged. (It is also worth noting that there are other educated middle-class Africans
who see this matter differently from me. That is what people, educated and otherwise, do: they assess
information and sometimes disagree with each other.)

In any case, Kristof and I are in profound agreement about one thing: there is much happening in
many parts of the African continent that is not as it ought to be. I have been fortunate in life, but that
doesn’t mean I haven’t seen or experienced African poverty first-hand. I grew up in a land of military
coups and economically devastating, IMF-imposed “structural adjustment” programs. The genuine
hurt of Africa is no fiction.

And we also agree on something else: that there is an internal ethical urge that demands that each of us
serve justice as much as he or she can. But beyond the immediate attention that he rightly pays hungry
mouths, child soldiers, or raped civilians, there are more complex and more widespread problems.
There are serious problems of governance, of infrastructure, of democracy, and of law and order. These
problems are neither simple in themselves nor are they reducible to slogans. Such problems are both
intricate and intensely local.

How, for example, could a well-meaning American “help” a place like Uganda today? It begins, I
believe, with some humility with regards to the people in those places. It begins with some respect for
the agency of the people of Uganda in their own lives. A great deal of work had been done, and
continues to be done, by Ugandans to improve their own country, and ignorant comments (I’ve seen
many) about how “we have to save them because they can’t save themselves” can’t change that fact.

Let me draw into this discussion an example from an African country I know very well. Earlier this
year, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians took to their country’s streets to protest the government’s
decision to remove a subsidy on petrol. This subsidy was widely seen as one of the few blessings of the
country’s otherwise catastrophic oil wealth. But what made these protests so heartening is that they
were about more than the subsidy removal. Nigeria has one of the most corrupt governments in the
world and protesters clearly demanded that something be done about this. The protests went on for
days, at considerable personal risk to the protesters. Several young people were shot dead, and the
movement was eventually doused when union leaders capitulated and the army deployed on the
streets. The movement did not “succeed” in conventional terms. But something important had changed
in the political consciousness of the Nigerian populace. For me and for a number of people I know, the

The White-Savior Industrial Complex — Global — The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/international/print/2012/03/the-whit…

6 of 8 4/16/15 10:29 AM

protests gave us an opportunity to be proud of Nigeria, many of us for the first time in our lives.

This is not the sort of story that is easy to summarize in an article, much less make a viral video about.
After all, there is no simple demand to be made and — since corruption is endemic — no single villain to
topple. There is certainly no “bridge character,” Kristof’s euphemism for white saviors in Third World
narratives who make the story more palatable to American viewers. And yet, the story of Nigeria’s
protest movement is one of the most important from sub-Saharan Africa so far this year. Men and
women, of all classes and ages, stood up for what they felt was right; they marched peacefully; they
defended each other, and gave each other food and drink; Christians stood guard while Muslims
prayed and vice-versa; and they spoke without fear to their leaders about the kind of country they
wanted to see. All of it happened with no cool American 20-something heroes in sight.

Joseph Kony is no longer in Uganda and he is no longer the threat he was, but he is a convenient villain
for those who need a convenient villain. What Africa needs more pressingly than Kony’s indictment is
more equitable civil society, more robust democracy, and a fairer system of justice. This is the
scaffolding from which infrastructure, security, healthcare, and education can be built. How do we
encourage voices like those of the Nigerian masses who marched this January, or those who are
engaged in the struggle to develop Ugandan democracy?

If Americans want to care about Africa, maybe they should consider evaluating American foreign
policy, which they already play a direct role in through elections, before they impose themselves on
Africa itself. The fact of the matter is that Nigeria is one of the top five oil suppliers to the U.S., and
American policy is interested first and foremost in the flow of that oil. The American government did
not see fit to support the Nigeria protests. (Though the State Department issued a supportive statement
— “our view on that is that the Nigerian people have the right to peaceful protest, we want to see them
protest peacefully, and we’re also urging the Nigerian security services to respect the right of popular
protest and conduct themselves professionally in dealing with the strikes” — it reeked of boilerplate
rhetoric and, unsurprisingly, nothing tangible came of it.) This was as expected; under the banner of
“American interests,” the oil comes first. Under that same banner, the livelihood of corn farmers in
Mexico has been destroyed by NAFTA. Haitian rice farmers have suffered appalling losses due to Haiti
being flooded with subsidized American rice. A nightmare has been playing out in Honduras in the
past three years: an American-backed coup and American militarization of that country have
contributed to a conflict in which hundreds of activists and journalists have already been murdered.
The Egyptian military, which is now suppressing the country’s once-hopeful movement for democracy
and killing dozens of activists in the process, subsists on $1.3 billion in annual U.S. aid. This is a litany
that will be familiar to some. To others, it will be news. But, familiar or not, it has a bearing on our
notions of innocence and our right to “help.”

Let us begin our activism right here: with the money-driven villainy at the heart of American foreign
policy. To do this would be to give up the illusion that the sentimental need to “make a difference”
trumps all other considerations. What innocent heroes don’t always understand is that they play a
useful role for people who have much more cynical motives. The White Savior Industrial Complex is a
valve for releasing the unbearable pressures that build in a system built on pillage. We can participate
in the economic destruction of Haiti over long years, but when the earthquake strikes it feels good to
send $10 each to the rescue fund. I have no opposition, in principle, to such donations (I frequently

The White-Savior Industrial Complex — Global — The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/international/print/2012/03/the-whit…

7 of 8 4/16/15 10:29 AM

make them myself), but we must do such things only with awareness of what else is involved. If we are
going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.

Success for Kony 2012 would mean increased militarization of the anti-democratic Yoweri Museveni
government, which has been in power in Uganda since 1986 and has played a major role in the world’s
deadliest ongoing conflict, the war in the Congo. But those whom privilege allows to deny
constellational thinking would enjoy ignoring this fact. There are other troubling connections, not least
of them being that Museveni appears to be a U.S. proxy in its shadowy battles against militants in
Sudan and, especially, in Somalia. Who sanctions these conflicts? Under whose authority and oversight
are they conducted? Who is being killed and why?

All of this takes us rather far afield from fresh-faced young Americans using the power of YouTube,
Facebook, and pure enthusiasm to change the world. A singer may be innocent; never the song.

This article available online at:


Copyright © 2015 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.

The White-Savior Industrial Complex — Global — The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/international/print/2012/03/the-whit…

8 of 8 4/16/15 10:29 AM

Reflection Paper



KONY 2012


Institution Affiliation



The KONY 2012 was successful at going viral for various reasons, including tapping into celebrities, asking people to join a movement, and the KONY 2012 website. After the release of the KONY 2012 video by the advocacy group, Invisible Children, the video went viral on various platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. It dominated the news feeds of Facebook, tallied more than thirty million views on YouTube, and spawned many trending topics on Twitter, thus receiving media attention from different fields, including foreign policy publications (Thibodo-Carter, 2019). The makers of the video urged viewers to target key celebrities in order to raise awareness, and most celebs did their part. Some of the well-known celebrities who were involved include Bill Gates, Justin Bieber, Jay Z, and Oprah Winfrey.

Some of the things that other human rights advocates could replicate if they want to achieve similar results include working together with prominent people in society, encouraging people to join movements, and avoiding underestimating the attention of people. KONY 2012 shows inspiring shots of youthful crowds who have already joined the movement to stop such acts, thus increasing awareness amongst different groups of people. The involvement of celebrities also proves to be a great advantage since many celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Justin Bieber played a crucial role in raising awareness which led to the attention paying off.

Based on the many critiques of KONY 2012, the critique by McCarthy and Curtis on The Guardian resonates with me because it outlines the real story of KONY 2012. The criticism resonates with me because there are several questions about the funding of the charity and whether it is targeting the United States leaders instead of African leaders to enhance change by failing to criticize the Ugandan government for its poor human rights record (McCarthy & Curtis, 2012). Nevertheless, I reject Gerson’s perspective in Washington Post that the attention Kony is receiving is disproportionate. The post states that people should also focus on the attacks going on in Syria, and citizens there require urgent attention and help than Uganda (Gerson, 2012). I believe there should be urgent attention on both countries in order to prevent such awful situations and protect people’s lives.

Due to the massive critiques that human rights advocates face, they should adopt specific strategies in order to avoid being paralyzed by the critiques leveled against KONY 2012. Some of the strategies that they should use include reflecting on the situation that caused the criticism, talking with other people to gain perspective, and focusing on facts. It is always important to focus on facts because it is believed that there are three sides to every story and many people appreciate it when they see others striving to be objective. Besides human rights advocates gaining other people’s perspectives on the situation, they should try to gain clarity by considering their perspectives and those of the critics to determine things that might have triggered the critiques.


Gerson, M. (2012). The controversy over Kony 2012. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/post/the-controversy-over-kony-2012/2012/03/10/gIQAzc6M3R_blog.html

McCarthy, T., & Curtis, P. (2012). Kony 2012: what’s the real story? Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/politics/reality-check-with-polly-curtis/2012/mar/08/kony-2012-what-s-the-story

Thibodo-Carter, S. (2019). The polymedia movement of KONY 2012: humanitarianism and millennial activism in the digital age (Doctoral dissertation, University of Oxford).

Reflection Paper

52 contexts.org

Try this experiment: Go to your college’s

or university’s home page and look for

the mission statement. Odds are high

that you’ll find at least one reference —

whether explicit or implicit — to the

institution’s promise to “produce global

citizens.” While this goal has become

widespread, even a truism, in higher

education, the particular construction

of this concept is relatively new. Histori-

cally, study abroad and a global educa-

tion were understood as the purview of

elite students, with the primary goal of

developing more complete, worldly, and

successful individuals. When “develop-

ing citizenship” was expressed as a goal

of higher education, such citizenship

was understood as national rather than

international in scope.

The production of global citizens as

a goal of higher education arises from

a particular mix of mediating factors in

the late twentieth and early twenty-first

centuries, many of which fall under that

ever-amorphous phenomenon of global-

ization: international monetary configu-

rations oriented toward global business

success; rapidly expanding (yet perva-

sively shallow) media focus on world

problems such as global health, human

rights, natural disasters, and poverty;

the rise of online learning opportuni-

ties across national borders; more inter-

national students studying within the

United States and more competition for

U.S. higher education institutions from

abroad; and the decreasing costs of

international travel for U.S.-based stu-

dents, to name but a few. One conse-

quence of these shifts toward a global

perspective is a much more widespread

expectation that some form of interna-

tional education be a part of every U.S.

student’s experience.

There are many reasons to applaud

the trend toward “globalizing” U.S.

education. Extending study abroad

opportunities beyond elite students

or institutions, and to locations that

push students beyond their economic,

physical and cultural comfort zones, are

significant achievements in their own

right. Likewise, increasing students’

sense of the necessity to understand

and be accountable for global issues

is a noteworthy humanistic endeavor.

In a country where shockingly few

national legislators have spent time out-

side of the United States or even pos-

sess passports, and where adults and

students alike have disturbingly limited

knowledge of basic global geography,

“The White Savior Industrial Complex is not
about justice. It is about having a big emotional
experience that validates privilege.”



american sentimentalism and the
production of global citizens
by ron krabill

Invisible Children founders Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole, and Jason Russell with members
of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army on the Sudan-Congo border in 2008.





53fa l l 2 0 1 2 c o n t e x t s

the internationalization of

higher education is a good

thing. Right?

What are some of the

unintended cultural conse-

quences of these programs?

American sentimentalism

can be seen as one such

outcome and the concept

provides a lens that clarifies

the dangers of these trends

without necessarily dismiss-

ing the benefits. Sentimen-

t a l i s m — e m o t i o n – b a s e d

claims to moral superiority

and as justification for one’s

actions — has a long track

record in literary and cul-

tural history, but it entered

the public eye most recently

and forcefully in the debate

around the Kony 2012 video

that went viral with over 100

million views since March

2012. This debate was espe-

cially evident in writer Teju

Cole’s scathing critique of

the video on Twitter. The

Atlantic magazine subse-

quently reprinted Cole’s

seven tweets under the title

of “The White Savior Indus-

trial Complex.” In this elaborated version

Cole notes, “I deeply respect American

sentimentality, the way one respects a

wounded hippo. You must keep an eye

on it, for you know it is deadly.”

Cole’s American sentimentalism-

based critique of Kony 2012 applies well

to the idea of global citizenship as it has

been deployed in the rhetoric of higher

education. This is more than an accidental

parallelism. The filmmakers behind Kony

2012—with its claim to help child com-

batants by making the Lord’s Resistance

Army leader Joseph Kony “famous”

through social (and other) media—have

utilized college campuses as a primary

speaking and recruiting grounds for their

organization, Invisible Children. Both

critiques and defense of the film center

on questions of generational differences

in engaging social media and politics.

So the connections are not incidental

between Kony 2012, larger mediated

perceptions of global issues, and the

expectation that international experi-

ence, particularly one that includes some

element of “helping” those whose sup-

posedly-exotic country one is visiting or

learning about, be part of a U.S. student’s

education. Both efforts rely on sentimen-

talism as the driving motivational force

for social engagement.

According to two of Cole’s tweets,

“The banality of evil transmutes into the

banality of sentimentality. The world is

nothing but a problem to

be solved by enthusiasm.…

The White Savior Industrial

Complex is not about jus-

tice. It is about having a big

emotional experience that

validates privilege.” Transna-

tional communications net-

works have helped amplify

the illusion that the expres-

sion of such enthusiasm —

whether via social media or

other information and com-

munication technologies

(ICTs) — has substantive posi-

tive material impacts beyond

the big emotional experience

of the enthusiast. The lens

of American sentimentalism

reveals some of the dangers

of framing the international-

ization of higher education

in terms of the production of

global citizens.

Like Kony 2012, global

citizenship practices in con-

temporary universities reflect

the assumption that aware-

ness of global problems is

a sufficient goal in itself.

Behind this assumption is

another, unspoken one:

if people become aware of horrifying

injustice, then they will take action and

the injustice will stop. This is the same

assumption that underpinned much of

the early work in human rights. However,

as contemporary human rights work-

ers have become excruciatingly aware,

changing people’s consciousness alone

is not enough. As sociologists might

put it, awareness is a necessary, but not

sufficient, condition for social change.

Ironically, increased access to mediated

images of issues around the world seems

to have increased many people’s faith in

Contexts, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 52-54. ISSN 1536-5042, electronic ISSN 1537-6052. © 2012 American
Sociological Association. http://contexts.sagepub.com. DOI 10.1177/1536504212466332

U.S.-based students become global citizens,
while residents of the Global South become
subjects of a global world order.

Author Teju Cole’s tweets are critical of the KONY 2012 campaign
and what it represents.

54 contexts.org


their own global awareness as sufficient,

even while cynicism regarding mass

media (and news media in particular) has

simultaneously skyrocketed.

While seasoned human rights work-

ers and sociologists understand that a

change in consciousness does not auto-

matically lead to social change, Ameri-

can sentimentalism invites consumers of

global citizenship campaigns back to the

belief in this simple causal connection.

Indeed, the ideal of global citizenship

as often produced in U.S. higher edu-

cation prioritizes the awareness-raising

and good intentions of some (U.S.-based

students) over the impact of those prac-

tices on others. An additional underlying

assumption is at work here: U.S. students

(and professors) inherently have the

power—often conferred by some com-

bination of access to disposable income

and social media—to solve global prob-

lems, unlike those whom they are help-

ing, who then come to be understood

merely as victims or as actors playing

minor roles in the drama of the student’s

global education. This dynamic replicates

the dual nature of colonial and postcolo-

nial government that scholar Mahmood

Mamdani outlined in his influential book,

Citizen and Subject, while extending it

to a global scale: U.S.-based students

become global citizens, while residents

of the Global South become subjects of a

global world order in which they are seen

as lacking agency.

The production of “global citizens”

also resonates with another common

discourse in the United States: “becom-

ing a productive citizen.” The implica-

tion of this phrasing is that a citizen

who engages in political, cultural, and

especially economic systems in the way

that s/he is “supposed” to, is more of a

citizen, a better citizen, than one who

is unproductive. The radical, the unem-

ployed, the hippy, the disabled, the punk,

the undocumented thus become less

deserving of civil, perhaps even human,

rights. Expanded to a global scale, such a

discourse of global citizenship allows, to

paraphrase Cole, the validation of privi-

lege side-by-side with the big emotional

experience of becoming a global citizen.

Like sentimentalism itself, all of

these dangers—the linking of produc-

tivity with citizenship; the division of

the world into global citizens and global

subjects; and the illusion that awareness

and enthusiasm are sufficient for social

change—display as many continuities

as disruptions with their historical prec-

edents. In the late 1960s, social critic Ivan

Illich famously told students preparing for

service work in Mexico that he admired

their commitment and good intentions,

but that they nonetheless were hypo-

crites if they continued. His speech, “To

Hell with Good Intentions,” has become

standard reading for students preparing

for service-learning experiences as part

of higher education, particularly in eco-

nomically underdeveloped communities

both locally and in the Global South. Yet

while awareness of Illich’s message has

spread, the fundamental dynamics of the

internationalization of education remain

much the same.

To take seriously Illich’s accusation

of hypocrisy, higher education needs

to rethink how it produces global citi-

zens, challenging the assumptions of

American sentimentalism that are deeply

embedded within it. Turning toward

international education policies of radical

reciprocity provide one route forward. In

order to achieve this, higher education

would have to abandon its superficial

invocations of global citizenship in favor

of a deep engagement with the substan-

tive, material, political and philosophi-

cal meanings of citizenship on a global

scale. Such a process would deprive its

students of the self-satisfied big emo-

tional experience of an exotic adventure

in helping others, in favor of a relentlessly

self-reflexive engagement with the reali-

ties of global inequality, the politics of that

inequality, and our varying individual and

collective responsibilities within them.

Ron Krabill is in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts

& Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell.

He is the author of Starring Mandela & Cosby: Media

and the End(s) of Apartheid.




Universities suggest that simply being aware of
global problems is sufficient.

To date, 3,590,161 people have pledged “to make Kony famous” by participating in
campaigns like “Cover the Night,” above.

Reflection Paper

3 page reflection paper on what was learned the course.

Chapter 1: Attitudes, Goal Setting, and Life Management

Chapter 2: Personal Financial Management

Chapter 3: Time and Stress Management/Org Skills

Chapter 4: Etiquette/Dress

Chapter 5: Ethics, Politics, and Diversity

Chapter 6: Accountability & Workplace Relationships

Chapter 7: Quality Organizations and Service

Chapter 8: Human Resources and Policies

Chapter 9: Communication

Chapter 10: Electronic Communications

Chapter 11: Motivation, Leadership, and Teams

Chapter 12: Conflict & Negotiation

Chapter 13: Job Search Skills

Chapter 14: Resume Package

Chapter 15: Interview Techniques

Chapter 16: Career Changes

I also did work shadowing, professional interview, presentation on communication, and community service.

    • 10

    Reflection Paper

    Each reflection paper should take an issue or topic from the assigned reading and develop your own thoughts into a coherent, well-considered paper.  These papers are not intended to be research papers, but rather to give you an opportunity to interrogate the readings, challenging their assumptions, and to practice critical thinking skills.  These papers must be limited to one single-spaced page with reasonable font size and margins and must be handed in at the beginning of the designated class; no late papers will be accepted for any reason.  You are expected to hand in four reflection papers throughout the course, but I will throw out the lowest grade of the four; in other words, each paper is worth ten percent of your final grade.

    A couple things to keep in mind.  First, I am looking for your own voice in these papers.  Your first paragraph should succinctly name the issue you’re addressing; the rest of the paper should be your own interrogation of that issue.  I am not looking for a summary of the readings; I’ve already read them and know that you have, too.  Keep in mind, though, that I’m looking for your voice in analysis, not your unsubstantiated “opinion.”  In other words, I want to know more than just what you think of a reading (your opinion), but also why you think what you do.  In order to do this, you need to provide evidence to back up your claims:  quotes from the reading, examples, logical fallacies, etc.  

    This will be much more successful if you focus on one specific issue within the readings.  A clear critique – whether positive or negative, or asking new questions – of a single idea is far more effective than a general, superficial reaction to a larger set of ideas.  Don’t try to tackle too much in these papers.  If you find one page is not enough space to make your point, then you need to choose a more focused issue; likewise, if you feel you need to cover more than one issue, you’re not going into enough depth on the issue you’ve chosen.  One-page papers require very careful, concise writing – pay attention to your language so that you can communicate as clearly as possible.

    Reflection papers must be on the readings that immediately precede their due date, as listed below.  The readings available to write on for a given paper may change if the overall calendar changes.  As always, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

    Reflection Paper

    For this assignment, you will compose a reflection paper that responds to the prompts below.

    Appraise effective leadership strategies that you can implement in health care delivery.

    Apply methods of managing potential conflict in your career.

    Apply the decision-making process for designing organizational structures in health services organizations with which you are or will be involved.

    Describe the importance of strategic alliances in enhancing organizational performance in your career.

    Compare approaches of quality assurance and quality improvement you could implement in your career.

    Synthesize strategies to achieve an effective health care organization.

    Compare the impact of globalization on health care organizations, including medical tourism.

    Your reflection paper should be at least three pages in length. Include at least one reference in your reflection paper. The required title and reference pages do not count toward the total page count. Adhere to APA Style when constructing this assignment, including in-text citations and references for all sources that are used. Please note that no abstract is needed.

    Reflection Paper

    Question: Prepare a paper of 2-3 pages discussing your observations from the Learning Activities. Especially correlate the poverty rates based on education attainment. What does that imply about the importance of education in breaking the cycle of poverty? 

    Module 6 Learning Activities:

    1. Read the excerpts from The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 
    2. Download The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, 2010, The New Press, 2012
    3. Read “Prison and the Poverty Trap Download Prison and the Poverty Trap” by John Tierney, The New York Times, February 18, 2013
    4. Go to “Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020.” (Links to an external site.)  Please review the charts and read the entire report. It is full of interesting data.
    5. Go to “State Profiles” (Links to an external site.) and click on Alabama on the map. Review the data for Alabama and consider how it compares to the national data you reviewed.
    6. Go to States of Incarceration: The Global Context 2021” (Links to an external site.) and see where Alabama ranks in the listing. Compare Alabama’s incarceration rate to that of the U.S. and other countries.
    7. Read “First Step Act Passes Download First Step Act Passes” by Steve Horn, Prison Legal News, January 2019 Read “Beyond the First Step Act Download Beyond the First Step Act” by Bernard Kerik, Newsmax, January 2, 2019.
    8. Research the amount of funding by Alabama for the “Department of Corrections” (or the equivalent in Alabama) and also the amount of funding for other departments or activities. Note where the funding for corrections ranks in the total budget. That is, is it the largest budget item, or where does it fall?
    9. Go to Alabama Possible data sheet (Links to an external site.) and review the data, comparing the information for Dallas County to the Alabama average and other counties around Dallas County. In terms of the percentage of Alabama population living below the federal poverty levels and note what the federal poverty levels are for various family sizes.

    reflection paper



    Response to Jenkins






    Relationships between the three concepts.

    Media convergence is a communication theory that argues that every mass media channel will eventually merge to the point where they will become one platform due to the introduction of new communication technology. There is a convergence of media platforms, a collaboration between several media companies, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will travel to practically any area searching for the entertainment experiences they seek.

    Conventional conceptions of passive media consumption are at odds with the concept of participatory culture. Instead of seeing media creators and consumers as two sides of the same coin, we may think of them as co-players who play by a new set of rules. In the minds of individual consumers and their relationships with others, convergence happens. The power of the media can be replaced by collective intelligence. When people take media into their own hands, convergence happens. Media platforms aren’t the only places where anyone may find entertainment content.

    Convergence is both a top-down and a bottom-up process.

    Convergence culture is currently being formed top-down by corporate boardroom decisions and bottom-up by decisions made in teens’ bedrooms. It is shaped by media corporations’ drive to spread their empires across various platforms, and customers want to access the media they want, when, and how they want.

    The black box fallacy.

    For Jenkins, the fallacy means we have many black boxes which are the media devices that compete for our attention. I have three media-related gadgets in my home.

    The concept of astroturf

    When compared to an organic network of roots, astroturf is a flat, uniform covering of plastic spread out over the earth. You can tell it’s fake because it’s meant to seem like the real thing, but it’s killing the natural grass underneath.

    Critical utopians vs. Critical pessimists

    A more democratic society is a significant concern for critical pessimists. To scare readers into taking action, they typically overstate the influence of major media. A critical utopian, Jenkins calls himself, Jenkins identifies as such. Jenkins has a point since not everything meets the predetermined criteria; rather, what we have may have untapped potential. A better, more equitable society can be achieved by examining the possibilities that exist in our own culture (Jenkins, 2018).

    Is convergence an inevitable reality for media today?

    Every technology and sector will eventually merge into a single, unified whole. Businesses can’t deal with an unlimited number of providers and technology. Therefore, they need to make straightforward decisions. Convergence is an essential aspect of our decision-making process when confronted with uncertainty. Therefore, it is inevitable.


    JENKİNS, H. (2018). Convergence Culture, Revisited. Üsküdar Üniversitesi İletişim Fakültesi Akademik Dergisi Etkileşim, (2), 10-19.

    reflection paper

    Professor Ron Krabill

    office: UW2 326  phone: 425.352.3592

    e-mail: rkrabill@u.washington.edu

    office hours: Mon. 200 to 330, Thurs. 1100 to 1230

    and by appointment

    Krabill, Human Rights Public Culture, Spring 2022

    Reflection Paper Guidelines

    “I am sorry to write such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

    Variously attributed to Kipling, Pascal, Pliny the Younger, Proust, Rilke, Twain, Voltaire …

    Each reflection paper should take an issue or topic from the assigned reading and develop your own thoughts into a coherent, well-considered paper. These papers are not intended to be research papers, but rather to give you an opportunity to interrogate the readings, challenging their assumptions, and to practice critical thinking skills. These papers must be limited to one single-spaced page with reasonable font size and margins and must be handed in at the beginning of the designated class; no late papers will be accepted for any reason. You are expected to hand in four reflection papers throughout the course, but I will throw out the lowest grade of the four; in other words, each paper is worth ten percent of your final grade.

    A couple things to keep in mind. First, I am looking for your own voice in these papers. Your first paragraph should succinctly name the issue you’re addressing; the rest of the paper should be your own interrogation of that issue. I am
    looking for a summary of the readings; I’ve already read them and know that you have, too. Keep in mind, though, that I’m looking for your voice in analysis, not your unsubstantiated “opinion.” In other words, I want to know more than just what you think of a reading (your opinion), but also
    you think what you do. In order to do this, you need to provide evidence to back up your claims: quotes from the reading, examples, logical fallacies, etc.

    This will be much more successful if you focus on one specific issue within the readings. A clear critique – whether positive or negative, or asking new questions – of a single idea is far more effective than a general, superficial reaction to a larger set of ideas. Don’t try to tackle too much in these papers. If you find one page is not enough space to make your point, then you need to choose a more focused issue; likewise, if you feel you need to cover more than one issue, you’re not going into enough depth on the issue you’ve chosen. One-page papers require very careful, concise writing – pay attention to your language so that you can communicate as clearly as possible.

    Reflection papers must be on the readings that immediately precede their due date, as listed below.
    The readings available to write on for a given paper may change if the overall calendar changes
    . As always, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

    April 7
    First Reflection Paper Due for Groups A&B
    Hartley, Hoover, Meyrowitz

    April 14
    First Reflection Paper Due for Groups C&D
    Jenkins, Murphy & Pfaff

    April 21
    Second Reflection Paper Due for Group A&B
    Keenan, Sontag

    April 28
    Second Reflection Paper Due for Groups C&D
    Cole, Krabill, Warner

    May 5
    Third Reflection Paper Due for Groups A&B
    Warner, Children’s Rights readings

    May 12
    Third Reflection Paper Due for Groups C&D
    #BLM readings, Schmidt Camacho

    May 24
    Fourth and Final Reflection Paper Due for ALL GROUPS
    Any reading/text assigned by the research clusters, *except* for your own cluster.

    Reflection Paper

    Submit a 1-page paper reflecting on your previous understanding (or misunderstanding) of the working poor and what you have learned so far in the course. 

     Read the following articles:

    1. Introduction to The Working Poor, by David Shipler.
    2. “What Do We Think Poverty Looks Like” by Tracie McMillan, The New York Times, July 8, 2017.
    3. “Understanding Poverty and Its Various Types” by Ashley Crossman, ThoughtCo, July 18, 2019.
    4. “Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth by Joseph Stiglitz, The New York Times, February 16, 2013.
    5. “Poverty in America is Mainstream” by Mark R. Rank, The New York Times, November 2, 2013.
    6. Profile of the Working Poor 
    7. Who Are the Working Poor?
      • 10

      Reflection Paper

       1. As a nurse with an associate’s degree it may seem that options in the job market are limited, but I don’t feel that is true. I have seen nurses become managers with an associate’s degree and other leadership roles like charge nurse and precepting new nurses. One would say my options are limited because of my educational level but I also don’t have the desire to be in leadership 2. I am only interested in pursuing my Bachelor’s degree (BSN), at first, I was only doing it because my job said we needed to have it, now that I have started classes, I have enjoyed what I am learning. I am content and more interested in getting certifications in my specialty like CEN (Certified Emergency Nurse) and completing CEU’s (continuing education modules for credit).