Visual technologies have long constituted a crucial element of struggles for human rights and social change. This lecture provides an overview of how human rights organizations are borrowing from this long-standing and wide-ranging tradition as they seek to professionalize video activism through video production, verification standards, visual investigative techniques, and training. In doing so, human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, WITNESS, and others move video activism away from its long-held status as an occupational craft into a proxy profession which puts human rights videos into institutional and legal service. The lecture argues that the proxy profession retains some of the flexibility of video activism as a critical voice against injustice while giving up on its imaginative scope as a cultural practice that sustains important human rights dialogue even in the face of institutional and legal stalemate.


Sandra Ristovska is Assistant Professor of Media Studies and Law at the University of Colorado Boulder. Informed by her experiences as a documentary filmmaker, her research examines how images shape the pursuit of justice and human rights across institutional and legal contexts in the U.S. and around the world. Her publications include the award-winning book, Seeing Human Rights: Video Activism as a Proxy Profession (MIT Press, 2021), and the co-edited volume, Visual Imagery and Human Rights Practice (Palgrave, 2018). She is the founding chair of the IAMCR’s Multimodal Communication Research Working Group.

Seeing Human Rights

Mon 17 Jun 2024 1:00pm2:30pm


Joyce Ackroyd (Building #37) seminar room (208)