One of the core assumptions of conflict studies is that the interpretation of conflict is political. The selection of a form and level of explanation of violent conflict is a serious political act in the sense that representations have political implications. The way in which violent incidents and conflicts are coded and categorized will play – intentionally or not — a role in casting blame and responsibility. It is therefore not enough to study and critique certain interpretations of violence, we also need to place these texts in context and try and understand how it is that certain interpretations have come to dominate others, and why this is the case.
Seen from this critical perspective, video-games such as Food Force and Darfur is Dying, both build on the metaphor of the West as helping parent, on the assumption that emergencies and wars in the borderlands have local, internal origins that need to be fixed and solved externally. So, frames are not only socially meaningful, they also are politically functional. They fit the new humanitarian order and hierarchy of power, and the ways governments and NGOs, at times unknowingly, sustain and police the gap between mass consumer society and those living beyond its boundaries. Although they importantly go against the glorification of violence so often seen in gaming and address meaningful emotions such as care, compassion, and support, they are by no means innocent. They are ideological and political spaces, where blame is cast and responsibility is placed in certain specific ways.
This lecture was given within the framework of the 2011 School of Critical Theory organized by the Centre for the Humanities in Utrecht. The programme was titled ‘G-local Cosmopolitanism: The Social Responsibility of the Artists, the Academics, and the Media’, and offered trans-national and interdisciplinary approaches drawn from the humanities, social sciences, law, philosophy and international relations. Its focus on the development of cross-national European perspectives in these areas, allows for the innovative use of key notions of cosmopolitanism across different national, cultural and disciplinary traditions. The school consisted of three clusters, which focused on Cosmopolitanism and the social responsibility of the Artists, Cosmopolitanism and the social responsibility of the Academics, and Cosmopolitanism and the social responsibility of the Media.