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Title: The polymedia movement of KONY 2012 : humanitarianism and millennial activism in the digital age
Author: Thibodo-Carter, Starr
ISNI:       0000 0004 8503 3409
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis seeks to understand the challenges and complexities of humanitarianism and youth activism in contemporary America by focusing on a 'polymedia movement' known as KONY 2012. KONY 2012 became the most viral video and humanitarian campaign to date when it was released by an American organisation called Invisible Children. KONY 2012 presents a uniquely powerful example of current trends in social relations and an instance of how people might be motivated to associate in a future that is shaped by social media. It is a phenomenon that, therefore, warrants the attention of anthropologists. This research integrates digital and traditional ethnographic methodologies and offers an academic contribution to an anthropological understanding of viral videos and polymedia movements. It considers the important roles of community, neo-colonialism, religion, celebrity and (social) media in relation to three key foci surrounding the movement: online activism, humanitarianism and millennial youth culture. The objective of the research is to identify the social and anthropological mechanisms underpinning the KONY 2012 phenomenon through investigative techniques including ethnography, so as to contribute to anthropological theory and knowledge and also to gain broader insight into the complicated, complex and multifarious social worlds we live in. The research found that the polymedia movement of KONY 2012 often reinforced the same practices of child-soldiering that it sought to eliminate, by inadvertently supporting a government that employed the same tactics. Furthermore, while the movement served a key role in the community and identity of American millennials, it was simultaneously plagued by corrupt government agendas both in Uganda and the United States, as well as the neo-colonialist mentalities of external groups, including religious organisations. KONY 2012 reveals the vast complexity of contemporary social movements, humanitarianism and online activism in the United States.
Supervisor: Banks, Marcus Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available