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Making the Invisible Visible: Photographic Trials in Neil Abramson's Soldier Child


For over two decades, films and advocacy campaigns about child soldiers have consistently relied on tropes of visibility to mobilize empathy and action by distant spectators. The overwhelming trend, which has arguably reached its zenith—or nadir—with the release of Kony 2012, has been to make invisible aspects of child soldier subjectivity that contradict the paradigm of childhood innocence that tends to dominate human rights narratives. This article argues that the 1998 documentary film Soldier Child by Neil Abramson offers a unique and forward-looking exploration of the paradoxical nature of child soldier visibility, forcing the viewer to confront the child-as-soldier in photographs and on film. By examining the way Abramson shifts between moving and still images to arrest the gaze, it draws out the importance of seeing the subject's transitivity as an essential precondition for rehabilitative, transitional justice in northern Uganda.

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