Live-Tweeting and Distant Suffering: Nicholas Kristof as Global Savior

Abstract: This essay interrogates Nicholas Kristof’s reporting on sex trafficking in Cambodia, examining the New York Times columnist’s narrative self-fashioning in the context of the neoimperialist rescue fantasies his writing perpetuates. It explores the intersections between Kristof’s writing and the various media he employs, and considers the effects of both on the audience he wishes to interpellate in the name of action. In his reporting, Kristof disseminates a set of truth claims about sex, work, and mobility; he presents himself as a global savior figure and encourages the “ironic” participation of his reader, who is moved less to take part in a cosmopolitan morality centered on justice for the Other than to identify with the savior and contemplate their own narcissistic performance of solidarity.

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About Leslie Barnes

Leslie Barnes is senior lecturer of French Studies at the Australian National University. Her first book, Vietnam and the Colonial Condition of French Literature (Nebraska, 2014), offers a literary history of twentieth- and twenty-first-century France that figures border crossings and contact with the colonial other as constitutive elements of metropolitan literary production. Her current project studies literary and cinematic narratives that engage with questions of sex work, mobility, and human rights in Southeast Asia. She is also co-editing The Cinema of Rithy Panh: Everything Has a Soul (Rutgers, 2021).