The Ethics of Witnessing and the Politics of the Governed

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23 Scopus citations


During the 20th century, witnessing outgrew its original affiliations with legal evidence and religious belief and became a social vocation in its own right. This essay explores the ethical expertise with which witnessing has been infused as the witness became the deferred result of a process of subjective transformation by probing some of the meta-testimonial discourses that emerged in response to the Great War, the Holocaust, and Third World emergencies. Against the ethical redefinition of witnessing advanced by Jean-François Lyotard, Shoshana Felman, and Giorgio Agamben, it analyses ethical witnessing as a practice of self that binds individual autonomy to institutional platforms, technological innovations, and reflective procedures that tackle the pitfalls of witnessing, maximize its potential, and trace its most adequate and resonant forms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-142
Number of pages20
JournalTheory, Culture and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Agamben
  • Foucault
  • emergency
  • ethics
  • genocide
  • human rights
  • humanitarianism
  • practices of self

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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