Kony 2012 - Knowledge and Responsibility in Development Campaigns

Tine Irming Lindskrog

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis investigates how the social movement Invisible Children frames meaning for action in its Kony2012 campaign, how we can understand such framing of meaning for action as knowledge, and whether Invisible Children is responsible for the implications of such framings. The thesis integrates the subjects of International Development Studies and Philosophy and will integrate theoretical aspects and discussions from both subjects. Invisible Children is a US-based social movement that aims to remedy the situation for Ugandan children affected by atrocities committed by the rebel group the Lord Resistance Army and its leader Joseph Kony. Invisible Children is an interesting case as it has been extremely successful in motivating young Americans to engage in the campaign by framing meaning for action through a simple storyline with a clear, powerful message and an easy solution. Invisible Children’s framing of meaning for action is analysed through Snow and Benford’s (2000) theory of collective action frames’ three components: diagnostic, prognostic and motivational framing. These framing components show: 1) Invisible Children is assigning blame and responsibility for the Ugandans’ suffering to Kony and taking the responsibility to remedy the Ugandans’ suffering. 2) It is targeting preselected celebrities and policymakers to spread the campaign and leverage the US government to make a military intervention to stop Kony. And 3) Invisible Children uses symbolic values of universalism and benevolence to motivate its members to act on its behalf. I question whether we can understand the framing of meaning for action as knowledge through Nancy Daukas (2006) by analysing whether we can assign trust to Invisible Children’s assessment of the Ugandan history and thereby understand it as knowledge. The findings show that Invisible Children is too self-confident in its epistemic character which keeps it from making the necessary epistemic investigations to be trustworthy in its assessments. I discuss whether Invisible Children is outcome, remedial and epistemically responsible for the implications of such framings through David Miller (2007) and Lorraine Code (1987). I find that Invisible Children is epistemic irresponsible in its assessments of northern Ugandan history. It is outcome responsible for its framing of meaning for action as it could have foreseen the implications of its actions and epistemic beliefs. Invisible Children is right in taking on the responsibility to remedy the situation for the northern Ugandans, but it is not behaving responsibly in its effort because it does not give agency to the Ugandans in its campaigning. The thesis concludes that Invisible Children is morally culpable in its framing of meaning for action in the Kony2012 campaign as its framing produced more harm than good for the northern Ugandans.

EducationsInternational Development Studies, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) GraduatePhilosophy and Science Studies, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Graduate
Publication date29 Nov 2013
SupervisorsLisa Ann Richey & Patrick Rowan Blackburn


  • Kony 2012
  • Epistemology
  • Collective action frame
  • Social movements
  • Development
  • Feminist epistemology
  • Development Campaigns
  • Invisible Children
  • Responsibility
  • Virtue epistemology