Diffracted Mediations: The Framing of Gender in the “War on Terror”
In wrestling with the imagery of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, Anne McClintock posed the question, “How do we insist on seeing the violence that the imperial state attempts to render invisible, while also seeing the ordinary people afflicted by that violence?”1 What she identifies is a paradox of visual culture in conflict zones: that an exposure of the spectacle of wartime media coverage may render a more grounded perspective impossible and—less obviously—that the converse might also be true. Historically, grounded visions have sought to flesh out the cost of war and the immediacy of conflict, and have played an important role in shattering the singular views of the war presented on either side of the conflict. Multiple and fragmentary visions on the ground of conflict zones may work to counter the consolidation of wartime power (which draws heavily on iconic images and mythical forms of speech), demonstrating acts of solidarity with nascent resistance movements and drawing transnational attention to local political actions. Such visions may also confirm (and allegorize) the binary oppositions within a conflict zone, however, and thus contribute either to a resurgent nationalism (on either side) or to the rendering of absolutist subject positions. The immediacy of grassroots media, and their distribution through the networks of new media platforms, may electrify distant (and differently) located publics just as they may repeat the mythical speech of top-down media forms. What critical tools exist, then, to parse the expanded field of visual culture and, particularly, its role in visualizing contemporary conflict zones?
KeywordsYoung Girl Muslim Woman Camera Phone Conflict Zone Visual Culture
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