The “White Savior Industrial Complex” – Lit Review – Conclusion

Conclusion and Future Studies of the White Savior Industrial Complex

The above cited literature and empirical examples of the White Savior Industrial Complex provide a global picture of the true nature of international aid and Western postcolonial humanitarianism in a new age of social media and Web 2.0. Research on whiteness, postcolonialism and Western imperialism is broad and reaches back to the mid-twentieth century, with the works of Fanon, Foucault, Bhabha and Grimes being cited most often in the literature that was compiled for this topic. Due to the narrower and more contemporary nature of new media’s influence on the White Savior complex, these works were not utilized in this literature review.  A classic treatment of postcolonialism and poor economics would likely contribute to a deeper, more philosophical approach to the theme, yet these topics are foundational in understanding the basis for postcolonial whiteness and its derived discourse.

From the research in this literature review, the articles by Hughey, Zhang, Davis, Rideout, Jessie, and Cole, touched on “digital whiteness” in ways that other researchers did not. They examined how “the Other” was portrayed or suppressed while the West’s image was augmented, and they explained how codified imagery and visuals aided in the solidification of the White Savior myth. By describing the issue of the “voiceless Other”, they alluded to the need for counter-narratives in framing global issues like poverty, while reifying the fact that global issues are indeed complex and not reducible to the common Master/Native binary frame. While Cole is in fact from Nigeria and can use his personal stories to counteract those in the media (as he did in his Atlantic piece), it is not clear whether the remaining authors are from the areas about which they write, nor if they have personal experiences with people from those areas. What is necessary to dismantle the myth of the White Savior Industrial Complex is the employment of counter-narratives to combat naturalized digital whiteness; additionally, these counter-narratives must be shared by those who have lived experiences of them. Research on the ills of foreign aid and the White Man’s Burden should not only be written by White men; moreover, they need to provide the avenues through which media can disseminate these narratives in the same methods that the current myth is being propagated. Gaps in the research include participatory research (aside from Cole) and lack of understanding around the “viral” factor of new media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. For every new NGO, there exists an account each for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest: multiple media outlets with the potential for exponential message saturation.  These movements cannot be ignored nor neglected. As new media spreads throughout the world, so does the ability for those who were voiceless to have their voices heard. The Arab Spring is a good example of the movement being “owned” by those participating in it. The Western media attempted to augment their role and involvement, and while Western tools were used to amplify online voices, the movement was successfully crafted by and for the people in the Middle East. While certain themes from the movement have been lost over time, the movement itself is a representation of the types of counter-narratives that can be employed by giving those in need the tools and access in order to share their stories. The hopeful outlook on social media’s world penetration, and the subsequent narrowing of the “digital divide” is that one day, the Western narrative would cease to exist, revealing a more democratic, empowered, self-sustaining, multi-faceted  and representative world narrative in its place.

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