Sean Bex and Stef Craps
Cultural Critique 92 (Winter 2016): 32-56.
Publication year: 2016

This article compares Dave Eggers’s What Is the What and Invisible Children’s Kony 2012, two recent and much-debated instances of human rights advocacy that mobilize subaltern testimonies. They do so in mutually illuminating ways, as they interact quite differently with the neocolonial discourses that come into play as Western activists and audiences engage with the disenfranchised voices of the Global South. We argue that Kony 2012 appropriates the subaltern’s voice and subsequently reaffirms colonial power relations by evoking a strong sense of the charitable West sympathetically giving to the perpetually inferior and destitute South. Eggers’s use of testimony, by contrast, is collaborative rather than appropriative, and is therefore able to challenge through both its form and its content many of the detrimental neocolonial assumptions and hierarchies that abound in Invisible Children’s campaign.