GLOBAL VISUAL POLITICS


THE IMAGE AS POLITICAL THEORY

Pride in London, 2018 ©Tommaso Durante


We live in a world dominated by images and in which images shape political events and how we understand them. Indeed, visual images not only represent and reflect the world, but also affect and reshape the embedded ideologies and the connected systems of values they carry out. In that sense, visual images produce theory by playing a strategic role in the symbolic and social construction of people’s historical consciousness. Continuously produced by phone cameras and professional cameras, drones, satellites and surveillance cameras, visual images are everywhere, able to record, represent, and display almost everything. Analyzed for scientific purposes or stored in archives to be further interpreted for academic research or security reasons, in the Global Age of the digital revolution the continuous flow of visual images is rapidly shared and consumed by people, mostly in the different materiality of the Internet and of the social web. Yet, there is a dearth of research addressing the political power of images in constructing global politics. The Global Visual Politics is a digital media archive that collects visual images related to a broad range of political themes, such as protest, peace, violence, religion and gender. In accepting the methodological challenges and the symbolic power of the visual, the archive addresses the images as political theory. A case study in itself, the project aims to investigate how visual images respond to global political events and to what extent political images displayed in their own right contribute to the emergence of a global visual culture, under present conditions of globalization. Through a theoretical and empirical discussion, the project addresses the following research questions: “Do visual images produce theory?”; “What is the symbolic power of an image?”; “Do images have power, or are we giving power to images?”; “How do visual images respond to global political events and how do they shape them?”.


Dr Tommaso Durante is Lecturer in Global Studies at the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University), Australia. He is also Instructor at the Centre for Global Politics of Freie Universität Berlin, Germany where he teaches Changing Global Landscapes: Globalization Challenges. He also taught Methods for the Study of Globalization at the Global and European Studies Institute (GESI) of Leipzig University in Germany, where he was awarded the 2017 Erasmus Mundus - Global Studies scholarship. He received his PhD from RMIT University in 2013 and is the author of The Visual Archive Project of the Global Imaginary (2007-present), a visual archive that collects still images to investigate how symbols found in the urban spaces of global and fast globalizing cities across the planet construct a new social imaginary that is simultaneously local, national and global. The outcomes of the project contribute to better understand the phenomenon of globalization and how the global imaginary is symbolically and socially produced.