Visualizing violence: aesthetics and ethics in international politics

Matthew T Johnson (Editor), Gabi Schlag, Anna Geis, Brent J. Steele, Rune Saugmann, Jessica Auchter, Charlotte Heath-Kelly, Axel Heck, Alexander Spencer, Frank Möller, Debbie Lisle, Michelle Bentley, Juha A. Vuori, Kyle Grayson, David Shim, Frank A. Stengel, Laura J. Shepherd, Nancy Okail, Hussein Kalout, Aggie HirstJack Holland, Diane Kirby, Tristan Dunning, Tim Aistrope, Hizer Ali Mir, Roel Meijer, May Darwich, Pascal Menoret, Madawi Al-Rasheed, Nazia Kazi, Enzo Rossi, Fahad Y. Al-Sumait, Jason Stanley, Glen Pettigrove, Willem Lemmens, Daniel C. Ainslie, James A. Harris

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationSpecial issue

15 Citations (Scopus)


US President Donald Trump’s daily use of twitter and his attack on what he calls ‘fakenews’ reminds us that media, either‘old’or‘new’, are sites of power and conflict. Tweets,meme and videos seem to be the favored communication, entertainment, even disinformation tool not only for President Trump but many people worldwide.It is well acknowledged that new technologies are changing the conditions of production, distribution, circulation, remediation, consumption and reception of communication. Advancements in internet technologies and new forms of equipment have extended access to the World Wide Web (although not in all parts of the world), and billions of images of different type, genre (and partly unclear) origin are available to a virtually global audience‘24/7ʹ. In everyday life, Nicholas Mirzoeff writes, seeing has become the dominant mode of postmodern cultures with‘the visual as a place where meanings are created and contested’(Mirzoeff 1999, 6).As a consequence of these trends, scholars from different disciplines have been interested in understanding the ambivalences and contingencies, and the normative and ethical questions that are related to communication in general as well as to images in particular. While images play a role in all realms of politics, their significance and impact are far more obvious if they depict violence. Governments and belligerent armed groups have tried to control images depicting or indicating violence at all times. Pictures of unrest, riots and violence travel easily and render it difficult to ignore‘the pain ofothers’(Sontag2003). Perhaps, there is no other realm in politics where images can have such great legitimating or delegitimating effects than when it comes to violent actions.In a time of global digital media, social networks and a mass production of images by all types of actors, images themselves are considered a weapon of war.One commonly ascribes images’specific qualities that words lack such as immediacy and authenticity. They possess mimetic qualities and have a visual circulability, i.e. the‘capacity to transgress linguistic boundaries–that visuals can be“read”by all’ (Hansen2011, 57). However, social scientists have to focus on the construction of the meaning of images, the political use and misuse of images and the surrounding discourses. Equally important to what is shown is that which is not shown, which is not seen, which is excluded from a visual representation. Thus, tremendous political power resides in deciding on the visibility or invisibility of someone or something.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages254
Specialist publicationGlobal Discourse
PublisherBristol University Press
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Visualizing violence: aesthetics and ethics in international politics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this