Power and Vision: The Camera as Political Technology

Alternate Wednesdays, 12:00 - 14:00 during term-time.

Seminar room SG2, Alison Richard Building


About

This interdisciplinary research group seeks to address the disconnect between popular and academic critique of the way contemporary political crisis is covered in mainstream media. We assert that there is a dearth of pragmatic, accessible discussions about how images work, rather than what they purportedly show. As fake news and multimedia increasingly suffuse the visual landscape, it is imperative to initiate an academic and public discussion about how what we see, and the way it is contextualised, underpins popular claims about how contemporary political power operates. We ask: can academics, artists, and visual practitioners help us all better understand how political issues are imagined and imaged? In order to achieve this aim, the group will organise a series of reading groups, seminars, film screenings, master classes, and practice-based events focused on dissecting the camera as a political technology of power.

THEMES

Easter Term 2018: 'Art' and 'Documentary' as Political Technologies               

We will conclude by questioning how the aesthetics of politics and the politics of aesthetics influence our interpretation of imagery. We will interrogate the perceived boundary between ‘art’ and ‘documentary’ imagery in multimedia representations of political crisis, as well as the claim that art can act as a form of ideological protest. The culminating event of this term will be a curated exhibition, hosted in collaboration with either CRASSH or Downing’s Heong Gallery, of topical politicised visual art, with visual practitioners, academics, and members of the public invited to contribute. This will constitute our one-day workshop event.

In addition to this culminating exhibition, one of the major outputs of this group’s work will be a learning resource for academics and industry professionals alike. We will conclude the year with a writing sprint where the core members of the group will collaboratively compile a guide to best practice for thinking critically about contemporary political imagery. The guide will be structured so as to offer insight to a general public and academic audience, including those who may not have been able to attend the series, in order to maximise the impact of the group’s proceedings.

Lent  Term 2018: Technologies of Seeing Others

We will focus on how images are used to make claims about difference, both across cultural divides and across the perceived boundary between the human and non-human. The conceptual lynchpin of this term’s events will be the technological production of alterity, and how images serve to both underscore and cast into doubt what might otherwise be interpreted as clear-cut boundaries of cultural, political, and racial difference.

Michaelmas Term 2017: The Technological History of Visualising Politics

The events of this term will focus on how devices of imaging political crisis have given rise to popular interpretations of conflict. We will explore the technological history of the camera, from the genesis of mainstream photojournalism and film in the 19th century to the contemporary widespread usage of drone imaging. There will also be space to discuss how the aesthetics of data, and visualisation of facts, has historically emerged from assumptions about the objective powers of observational technologies.

 

Administrative assistance: gradfac@crassh.cam.ac.uk

Convenors

Natalie Camille Morningstar  (PhD in Social Anthropology) 
Jessica A. Fernández de Lara Harada  (PhD in Latin American Studies)   
Matthew Mahmoudi  (MPhil (incoming PhD) in Development Studies)   
Katherine Anne Mato  (PhD in Latin American Studies) 
Engy A. S. M. Moussa  (PhD in Politics and International Studies)   
Karoliina J. Pulkkinen ( PhD in History and Philosophy of Science) 

 

Faculty Advisors

Dr Duncan Bell  (Reader in Political Thought and International Relations, Department of Politics and International Studies) 
Professor Harri Englund  (Division of Social Anthropology, Director Centre of African Studies, Fellow Churchill College) 
Dr Tanya Filer (Research Associate on the Leverhulme-funded Conspiracy and Democracy Project at CRASSH) 
Dr Ella McPherson (Department of Sociology)
Erica Segre  (Lecturer in Latin American Studies, Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Associate Teaching Fellow at Newnham College, Centre for Film and Screen, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages)
Dr Graham Denyer Willis  (University Lecturer, Centre of Development Studies and Centre of Latin American studies)

Programme 2017-18

Power and Vision
From Analogue to Aerial Surveillance: Reading the History of Political Imaging
11 October 2017, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building

Reading session - Power and Vision

Screening of 'Waltz with Bashir' (2008)
25 October 2017, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building

Ari Folman (Film Director) - Power and Vision

The Production of Journalism and Fact-Making
08 November 2017, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building

Alexia Singh (Save the Children,Reuters, Magnum), Eliot Higgins (Bellingcat, Brown Moses Blog) - Power and Vision

Reconstructing the Effects of a Drone Strike (Screening)
22 November 2017, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building

Christina Varvia (Forensic Architecture) - Power and Vision

Reading the Technologies of Seeing Others
24 January 2018, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building

Paul Halliday (Goldsmiths), Mónica Moreno Figueroa (Cambridge) - Power and Vision

Imaging the Politics of the Refugee Crisis
07 February 2018, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building

Issam Kourbaj (Syrian Artist), Simon Bainbridge (Editor of the British Journal of Photography) - Power and Vision

Visual Production of Alterity in Urban, Digital and Genetic Spaces
21 February 2018, Seminar room SG2, Alison Richard Building

Felipe Hernández (Cambridge), Paulo Drinot (UCL), Sarah Abel (Iceland) - Power and Vision

Settling in the City: A Workshop on Migration
07 March 2018, Seminar room SG1, Alison Richard Building

Sam Ivin (Photographer) - Power and Vision.  Registration is now closed.

The Politics of Documentary and Art Imagery
02 May 2018, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building

Reading group today - Power and Vision

Take Me There (Pop-Up Exhibition)
12 May 2018, Heong Gallery, Downing College, Regent St. CB2 1DQ

Exhibition - Power and Vision. NB 6:30-8:30pm

Reflections on Art Images of Violence and Death
16 May 2018, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building

Prerona Prasad (Heong Gallery, Downing College) – Power and Vision