There is an abundance of possibilities to visualize peace. Take, as just two examples, The Global Peace Photo Award[i] and The German Peace Prize For Photography[ii]. Both awards unite under one umbrella diverse images, representing various photographic aesthetics as well as political messages. It is not always possible to pinpoint what these images have in common, what could characterize them as “images of peace”.
Given the forum that this blog post[i] is written for I should state straight away that I consider the arts (visual and performative) to be a form of communication and to have the same kind of transformative power that the more ordinary forms of communication (talk, writing, news media) have. In this I follow Cooley and Dewey – the latter argued that art was the ‘most universal and freest form of communication’, one that is able to break ‘through barriers that divide human beings, which are impermeable in ordinary association’ (Dewey 2005: 254). Others have argued that art ‘can influence the way people interpret, perceive, and ultimately act in their communities’ (Hawes 2007: 18), ‘communicate and transform the way people think and act’ (Shank and Schirch 2008: 218). Overall, what ‘is expressed within the imagination of art simultaneously constitutes and is constituted by the society; both a reflection of society and a key agent of its transformation’ (Premaratna 2018: 8). It is particularly effective when words don’t seem to be able to capture experiences, trauma, wishes and desires. Understood in this way, the arts are fundamental to and constitutive of civil society and as such, cannot be dismissed as entertainment or ‘add-on culture’; as something peacebuilding missions do not need to prioritise.
Within the discipline of International Relations (IR), awareness grows that not only the international system is complex but also IR as a discipline. Considerable growth over the last decades coincides with increasing difficulties both to communicate across intra-disciplinary borders and to reach out to policymakers. The same can certainly be said about recent trends in peace and conflict research.
In our new article “Messiness in Photography, War and Transitions to Peace – Revisiting Bosnia: Uncertain Paths to Peace,” we take a closer look at an interactive photography project published in the New York Times on the Web in 1996, Fred Ritchin and Gilles Peress’s project Bosnia: Uncertain Paths to Peace.
We are pleased to announce that we contributed to the special issue for the 50th anniversary of Kosmopolis, the journal published by the Finnish Peace Research Association. In our article, Soveltava visuaalinen rauhantutkimus: Kuvat, rauhanvälitys ja aktiivinen katsominen (in English: Applied Visual Peace Research: Images, Mediation and Active Looking), we explore how images can contribute to peace processes from a more practical perspective, starting a new line of research: Applied Visual Peace Research. To do so, we look at possible ways images can advance peace processes by examining international peace mediation more specifically.
We are pleased to announce our new publication “Visual appropriation: a self-reflexive qualitative method for visual analysis of the international” with International Political Sociology. The article is the outcome of a long-standing research cooperation with Rune Saugmann Andersen, analyzing the contribution of the Irish photographer Richard Mosse’s images to our understanding of international politics.
One year ago, we started our seasonal greetings by stating that “2020 has certainly been an exceptional year”. Now, a year later, we could very well start this email by saying the same thing. At the end of the previous year, we thought, with vaccination campaigns starting, the new year can only be better. Shortly after, we found ourselves in even stronger lockdown situations than before. After being a bit more relaxed over summer, we are now facing even more shocking news about intensive care units that are reaching the limits of their capacities. Therefore, we hope that you and your families and friends got through this intense period without having to cope with serious physical and mental harm.
The capability of visual images to create compassion with distant others, especially suffering others, has always been regarded as one of the strengths of visual representation, especially photography and video documenting, nowadays almost instantaneously, the plight of others. Social documentary and concerned photography, for example, always expected that a politically powerful community, however defined, would respond to its awareness-raising visualizations and politically intervene in, and ameliorate, the conditions photographers could only depict.
Imaging Peace is a 3-year Leverhulme research project that is looking at how participatory, citizen and community photographic initiatives act as (implicit or explicit) forms of peace photography or strategic visual peacebuilding. The project is exploring how community engaged and participatory photographic practices are being harnessed to foster resilience and dialogue, to embed peace and to support the healing and re-building of people and communities in countries and places with recent histories of violence and conflict.
The decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to honor journalistic work by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize 2021 to the Filipina journalist Maria Ressa and her Russian counterpart Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov shows the importance for peaceful social interaction that the Committee assigns to free reporting: