Women Without a Nation


Humanitarian approach
Refugee women

How to Cite

Zanco, A. (2021). Women Without a Nation: Deromanticizing Humanitarian Photography and Exploring Self-Representation. Stream: Interdisciplinary Journal of Communication, 13(1), 85–95. https://doi.org/10.21810/strm.v13i1.295


Photography has the ability to provoke ethical reflection and to provide an emotional connection to the reality of individual suffering (Hariman & Lucaites, 2016). Therefore, given the remarkable importance of visual communication in covering humanitarian crises, this short paper aims to problematize humanitarian photography practice and reflect on alternative ways of framing representations of refugee women’s life experiences outside mainstream media. Thus, I propose here an initial conversation regarding my doctoral research that focuses on self-representation of refugee women. I aim to investigate how self-representation can challenge the way to document refugee women’s life experiences by constructing through visual narration their identities and exiled memories. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to deromanticize the humanitarian discourse by reflecting on the photographer’s role in the field and by exploring alternative photography practices that frame nations affected by crises. The word crisis governs my work not only because refugee women are victims of a global refugee crisis resulting from armed conflict, natural disasters, and diseases, but also because of the daily subjective crises that these women face in lands that they now call home. Through self-representation, they can construct their stories beyond the problematic of conflicts. Thus, by reflecting on the activist potential of self-representation in framing of refugee memories it is possible to think of new opportunities to make their struggles visible in times of crisis.  

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Copyright (c) 2021 Amanda Zanco