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War Culture and the Contest of Images

Dora Apel

Publication Year: 2012

War Culture and the Contest of Images analyzes the relationships among contemporary war, documentary practices, and democratic ideals. Dora Apel examines a wide variety of images and cultural representations of war in the United States and the Middle East, including photography, performance art, video games, reenactment, and social media images. Simultaneously, she explores the merging of photojournalism and artistic practices, the effects of visual framing, and the construction of both sanctioned and counter-hegemonic narratives in a global contest of images. As a result of the global visual culture in which anyone may produce as well as consume public imagery, the wide variety of visual and documentary practices present realities that would otherwise be invisible or officially off-limits. In our digital era, the prohibition and control of images has become nearly impossible to maintain. Using carefully chosen case studies—such as Krzysztof Wodiczko’s video projections and public works in response to 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the performance works of Coco Fusco and Regina Galindo, and the practices of Israeli and Palestinian artists—Apel posits that contemporary war images serve as mediating agents in social relations and as a source of protection or refuge for those robbed of formal or state-sanctioned citizenship. While never suggesting that documentary practices are objective translations of reality, Apel shows that they are powerful polemical tools both for legitimizing war and for making its devastating effects visible. In modern warfare and in the accompanying culture of war that capitalism produces as a permanent feature of modern society, she asserts that the contest of images is as critical as the war on the ground.TEST XYZ

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Book Series Information

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Dedication Page

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

For generous funding of this project I thank Wayne State University for the Research Enhancement Awards in the Arts and the Career Development Chair; Walter Edwards and the Humanities Center; the University Faculty Fellowship and the Dean’s Creative/ Research Award. I also thank my...

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pp. 1-14

In modern warfare and the accompanying culture of war that capitalism produces as a permanent feature of modern society, the contest of images is as critical as the war on the ground. We might say that the contest of images is the continuation of war by other means, affecting not only our...

Part I. The Romance of War

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pp. 15-

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1. Technologies of War, Media, and Dissent in the Post-9/11 Work of Krzysztof Wodiczko

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pp. 17-46

In the U.S. war on Iraq and the elusive, euphemistic “global war on terrorism” manufactured in response to the events of September 11, video and surveillance have been used in radically diverse ways, eroding the line between public and private in the service of state control, political recruitment...

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2. Historical Reenactment: Romantic Amnesia or Counter-Memory?

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pp. 47-76

War reenactors and “living history” groups (who perform for the public only while reenactors perform both publicly and privately) have grown from a small phenomenon when reenacting began to a startling array of contemporary groups and events. In the United States alone, war...

Part II. The Body of War

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pp. 77-

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3. Abu Ghraib, Gender, and the Military

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pp. 79-111

The Abu Ghraib photographs join a genealogy of iconic war images despite the ever greater state efforts to control and contain images of war, an effort that fails in inverse proportion to the growth and availability of digital technology. After U.S. government censorship of photographs from World War II and Korea, photos...

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4. The Body as Political Corpus

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pp. 112-147

In response to the revelations of torture and their justification in recently declassified CIA documents, Guatemalan artist Regina José Galindo enacts and externalizes bare life as constitutive of the new political body by submitting her own body to an act of torture. For...

Part III. The Landscape of War

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pp. 149-

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5. Controlling the Frame: Photojournalism, Digital Technology, and "Modern Warfare"

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pp. 151-182

I have been defining the public sphere as “the spaces, sites, and technologies available for public discourse that is critical of the state,” in Peter van der Veer’s terms, but with a focus on its constitution through documentary practices of visual representation that call into place a shared way of...

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6. Israel/Palestine and the Political Imaginary

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pp. 183-231

The technologies of video and surveillance fundamental to “homeland security” and the “war on terror,” the pursuit of perpetual war on the domestic front, and the ensuing collapse of public and private space are all nowhere more deeply entrenched than Israel/Palestine. At the same...

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Conclusion: On Human Rights

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pp. 232-238

While images are easily framed to serve the interests of the state, contemporary documentary images are also used to construct counterhegemonic narratives and to call into place public spheres, based on shared ways of seeing, that are critical of and outside the control of the state. In...


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pp. 239-254

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 255-259


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pp. 261-273

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813553962
E-ISBN-10: 0813553962
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813553955
Print-ISBN-10: 0813553954

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 45 photographs
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: New Directions in International Studies
Series Editor Byline: Patrice Petro


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Subject Headings

  • Art and war.
  • War and society.
  • Art and society.
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