The visual fix: The body, race, and the seductive beauty of images of violence

Kilby, JE 2013, 'The visual fix: The body, race, and the seductive beauty of images of violence' , European Journal of Social Theory . (In Press)

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This paper questions the value of photographs of violence, which in recent years, especially in the wake of Abu Graib, have become the subject of increasing debate (Butler 2009, Linfield 2010, Sontag 2004). Taking Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Philippe Bourgois’ impressively exhaustive and wide-ranging anthology Violence in War and Peace (2004) as my focus, I will explore the significance of images of suffering by asking why they include images of explicit violence and victimisation when they readily acknowledge, in their cogently argued introduction, that they risk both indifference and voyeuristic interest. Key to my analysis is the centrality of the body to the images and their understanding of violence. Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois are wary of reducing questions of violence to bodily suffering, but as I will argue the admission of so many images of physical violation undercuts their critique of the primacy of the physical in our accounts of violence. The use of the body as a brute signifier of violence is deeply problematic, not least I argue because it is tied to questions of race. Ultimately I will argue that they attempt, unconsciously, to fix the nature of violence – which they deem slippery because it is irrefutably social – in the (visualised) body.

Item Type: Article
Themes: Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > School of Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences > Centre for Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences Research
Journal or Publication Title: European Journal of Social Theory
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 1368-4310
Depositing User: Users 29196 not found.
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2011 12:38
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2015 00:33

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