As a PhD candidate Wouter Oomen is working on his dissertation on the imagined common humanity in charity fundraising campaigns. He received a NICA fellowship for four years for the project:
Contemporary images used in charity fundraising aimed at the abolition of poverty are ingrained with a notion of a ‘common, global humanity’. This assumed shared base can be thought of in terms of shared values, universal human rights, basic human emotions or collective responsibilities. Fundraising, in short, visualizes globalization by targeting the idea of a shared human experience. This project revolves around the question how such a specific notion of a globalized world is imagined in fundraising. For this, long-term promotional activities, broadcasting events and social media campaigns will be addressed - media texts that present us with the visual culture of suffering and relief, and with narratives on grief and optimism. The project thereby aims to address imagined global unity in the face of structural inequality, in order to trace how charity fundraising proposes the idea of a common humanity.
Although supposed global commonalities lie at the heart of charity fundraising, the production and reception of these campaigns is tied to local contexts. As a result of this, the alleged human experience is imagined from the perspective of those holding economic advantage and the ability to behold; bringing with it a distinction between a fortunate spectator and an unfortunate ‘other’. Interestingly, this seems at odds with the idea of a global human experience. The question whether universalism is an ethnocentric phenomenon is therefore as important as the question how universalism is defined in mediated encounters between different places.