Empirically, this book is based on an in-depth analysis of the published photographs taken by Norwegian evangelical missionaries in Northern Cameroon between 1925, the start of their activities, and 2005. Norway sent out more missionaries per capita than any other country in Europe. Marianne Gullestad's main contention is that the need to continuously justify their activities to donors in Europe has led to the creation and maintenance of specific ways of portraying Africans. The missionary visual rhetoric is both based on earlier visualizations and has over time established its own conventions which can now also be traced within secular fields of activity such as international development agencies, foreign policy, human relief organizations and the media. "Picturing Pity" takes part in the present "pictorial turn" in academic teaching and research, constituting visual images as an exciting site of conversation across disciplinary lines.
Marianne Gullestad is currently Research Professor at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo. She has been awarded two prizes for her research. Her books in English include Kitchen-Table Society (1984, with a new edition as a social science classic in 2002), The Art of Social Relations: Essays on Culture, social Action and Everyday Life in Modern Norway (1992), Everyday Life Philosophers: Modernity, Morality and Autobiography in Norway (1996), and Plausible Prejudice: Everyday Life Experiences and Social Images of Nation, Culture and Race (2006).