Solidarity, Social Media, and the "Refugee Crisis": Engagement Beyond Affect

Zakaria Sajir, Miriyam Aouragh


The images of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old who drowned in the Aegean Sea in 2015, and Omran Daqneesh, a five-year-old covered in dust and blood waiting shell-shocked in the back of an ambulance in 2016, both symbolize the horror and suffering endured by civilians throughout the “refugee crisis” in Europe and the civil war in Syria. Yet, the circulation of these images mobilized different outcomes. Kurdi’s image engendered solidarity that was supported by action, whereas Daqneesh’s image did not result in the same effect. This article reflects on the potential for solidarity of images circulating on social media by placing them in relation to the context in which they are embedded. The results of our study show that although shocking images can awaken compassion toward the oppressed, they do not necessarily translate into movements of solidarity, but can rather degenerate into ineffective forms of pity.


refugees, crisis, mediation, activism, solidarity

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