Mirzoeff’s book, The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (2011) is about visual culture and the ways images narrate larger western history. Visuality for the author naturalizes the power structures. He looks at three complexes; the plantation slavery, imperialism, and the military-industrial complex in order to show visuality as a process that reshapes hegemony. In addition, he also offers countervisuality, as "the attempt to reconfigure visuality as a whole" (24). Meaning, that the right to look challenges and dismantles the visual strategies of the "Heroe" with a capital "H" or the visual strategies of "great men" that the hegemonic western structures produce. Overall, Mirzoeff's text was a very difficult read for me but after class discussion I feel that I can grasp the concepts a little better now. Like many of my peers I was struggling with visuality2 and countervisibility. After the class discussion I think visuality2 is the state manipulating or using visuality in order to reproduce the structure and its discourse. For instance, I thought about how neoliberalism has used “difference” as a way to reproduce the structure of inequality even though the discourse surrounding difference is hyper-individualistic. Countervisibility on the other hand, is more about the decolonial project that Mirzoeff offers; “the right to look.” Mirzoeff wants us to question our conceptualization of history, especially since history has been thought of as linear. However, what he shows is that our own westernized conception of history does not allow us to see other histories that fall outside the linear narrative. Which brings me to my next point, if the decolonial geneology must encompass a critical examination of visuality “with the formation of coloniality and slavery as modernity” as he adds, this must establish a counterhistory, but what if there are multiple counterhistories, does that translate to multiple decolonial geneologies? This made me think about the “right to look” as an engaging relationship, but as Annita mentioned in class, what happens when one chooses not to be seen? how does that complicate "rights"?
As I was doing my usual news surfing tonight I came across this news. We were all grumpy about Mirzoeff's last chapter particularly because it did not have enough coverage of present day military-industrial complex and the therorization of visibility and countervisibility. As I read the news I kept on wondering in which arena would this news fall!!
Here is the final list for reading project proposals. Your papers should be posted to the blog by 5 PM on April 5th. We will have the workshop in class on April 9th.
1. Annita and Tiffany will read Lizeth's paper
2. Lizeth and Jorge will read Annita's paper
3. Jen and Somava will read Jorge's paper
4. Rachel and Dell will read Somava's paper
5. Rachel and Jorge will read Jen's paper
6. Dell and Annita will read Tiffany's paper
7. Somava and Tiffany will read Rachel's paper
8. Jen and Lizeth will read Dell's paper
Apologies for the inconvenience in posting late....
The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (2011) by Nicholas Mirzoeff offers an academic audience a comparative decolonial framework by which to understand historical processes and interpretations of visuality. Mirzoeff claims that visuality is an “old word for an old project” (2). This project is western hegemony. Through his complication of what he calls the complexes of visuality, readers come to understand the fluid mechanisms that have constructed today’s global perceptions of reality—which happens to be rooted in Anglo-French-American colonial authoritarianism. Treating visuality as a “discursive practice that has material effects” Mirzoeff conceptualizes a decolonized methodology and archive by locating the three characteristics of visuality: classifying, separating, and aestheticizing. From the chapters assigned, Mirzoeff traces the fluidity between these various “visualization[s] of history” (2) as situated beginning in the 19th century. Specifically, he compares three frameworks: the plantation slavery (1600-1860); the imperial framework; the contemporary military-industrial complex framework. Respectively, Mirzoeff is invested in complicating visual cultural studies. Making the argument that in order to be real, one must first be able to see, The Right to Look views visuality as a war; more importantly, provides readers with a sense of urgency in coming to grips with modernities’ personifications of what is real leaving to readers a firm idea of who has/and is interpreting our reality, and the social consequences should this realness be maintained by neo-colonial authorities.
Particularly interesting for me was the early conceptualization of “The Modern Imaginary”. Here, Mirzoeff contrasts the early anti-monarchical revolutions as experienced in France and in Haiti. Conceptualizing these pivotal historical moments through a ‘politics of eating’—where a given society guarantees food distribution for those in governance and in populace (94)—Mirzoeff claims that the right to look provides a critique of western glorification of the nation-state. I found the following quote quite interesting:
From the beginning of his public career, Toussaint had asserted that in order to create a modern-nation-state, the revolution in Saint-Domingue needed to be forged from a balance of liberty, meaning freedom from slavery, and responsibility, meaning continued agricultural labor on cash-crop plantations for the majority. His goal was to render the revolutionary imaginary into an “imagined community” of workers and leaders under the control of the army and pursuing Catholic observance. (111)
Applying a bit of historical hindsight; it becomes quite evident that the revolutionary leaders as experienced in France and Haiti were not visualizing opposing agendas. This plays well into Mirzoeff’ s larger critique, following C.L.R. James, that individual heroes are not what popular movements necessarily require. Additionally, by analyzing the modern imaginary via the plantation surveillance framework, it becomes reasonable to understand that what underlies both these early “modern” revolutions was political economy—Toussaint’s goal was to comply with the 1798 US signed treaty (111).
While I remember learning about the Haitian Revolution as an undergrad in an introductory Latin American survey course, I don’t recall having the narrative complicated as much. As he discerns in his introductory remarks regarding two modes of history, following Chakrabarty, Mirzoeff distinguishes between two kinds of visuality. Describing visuality 1 to be a process that seeks a coherent, structured modality of social reality that “allowed for centralized and/or autocratic leadership” (23), visuality 2, accordingly, is the “picturing of the self or collective that exceeds or precedes that subjugation to centralized authority” (23-24). As I understand, Mirzoeff’ s larger aim is to place Visuality 2 not in opposition to Visuality 1, but as a part of Visuality 1, or authority’s “life process” (24). This is similar to the conversation last week where Deloria’s argument that Native Americans have never been in opposition to modernity, but rather have played an integral part in shaping modernity.
1 – Does Mirzoeff's incorporation of Chakrabarty's notion of History 1 (already "a precondition for capitalism") with History 2 (the not so capitalist-friendly archive) consider neoliberal hegemonic capabilities of appropriating counter-narratives for the continuation of western capitalist purposes?
2 – As I understand Mirzoeff, the “right to look” is the decisive action to reclaim historico-political agency. What might Mirzoeff say regarding hegemonic absorption? More specifically, what if any, are the limitations in this notion of claiming “a right to see”? E.g: The East LA shop were the shirt I am wearing today was purchased receive their daily “eats” by selling counter-narratives—in essence selling material representations as to what a “right of seeing” looks like. However, after taking this class and learning to view binary narratives critically, I wonder: how might we problematize Mirzoeff proclamation that by reclaiming the right to see (interpret vernacular/visual histories) does not necessarily “democracy become democratized”?
Nicholas Mirzoeff's The Right to Look: a Counterhistory of Visuality (2011) interrogates the boundaries of visuality in colonial history and the postcolonial present, and he explores instances of countervisuality in three arenas: the plantation complex, the imperial complex, and the military-industrial complex. For Mirzoeff, visuality is a discursive practice based not merely on what/how entities see but how they are seen as autonomous (or not).
Mirzoeff points out that the visualization of history is an "imaginary" process, one that creates a lifeworld that, for the visualizer, "manifests [an] authority" (2). This way of visualizing history must be constantly renewed in order to become naturalized. Visuality is not just “visual perceptions” but consists of a "set of relations combining information, imagination, and insight into a rendition of physical and psychic space" (3).
In my reading, I found myself focused on representations of the Hero as they morphed through these various complexes of visuality/countervisuality, from the individual Hero of the plantation complex, to the "abstracted and intensified means of ordering biopower" in imperial visuality (196). Today, as Mirzoeff notes, the chaos that the Hero was supposed to hold at bay has now become a necessity in legitimating counterinsurgency (282). Yet, representations of the Hero still exist, though very much abstract in some sense. From a US point of view, the abstracted (and typically racialized) image of "the terrorist" or "the insurgent" is contrasted with the image of the American Soldier as the moral personification of citizens' continued liberty (to consume, if nothing else). Abstraction of the American Soldier relies on an absence of relationship, in some sense, through what is seen – mainstream media outlets generally don't show much war action or "counterinsurgency efforts," though the rhetoric of heroism can still be "heard" or "seen" through propaganda and thanks to citizens themselves (obviously this has the potential to get seriously complicated, and I'm trying not to go too far down the rabbit hole). Yet, this image of the American Soldier/Hero is also made concrete in various ways (e.g. special television episodes of families reacting to the return home of a soldier). It seems to me that despite the high level of abstraction, on some level, of a "global insurgency" that demands a permanent state of war, the continued management of domestic populations depends on the continued concretization of the representation of a Hero of counterinsurgency. This helps to inspire the "love" (again, on a domestic, national level) required for the military-industrial complex to continue even as the visuality itself, as Mirzoeff notes, "can no longer fully contain that which it seeks to visualize" (282).
I too found it interesting the Mirzoeff mentions Orwell since, in addition to the discussion of war as a permanent state (leading to the Party slogan "War is Peace") and the quasi-acceptance of a heightened state of surveillance ("Big Brother is watching"), I started thinking about doublethink, the concept of being able to believe in two contradictory ideas at once. I am still processing this, but on a domestic level, some kind of doublethink needs to happen in order to have an awareness of the tactics that the "counterinsurgency" is taking to maintain its authority while at the same time still venerating not only individual heroes but also the Soldier as abstract Hero figure. (I realize I'm in a very US-centric train of thought, but I'm going with what I know.)
1) Not sure if this will actually form a coherent question, but I'm interested in the relationships between counterinsurgency, counter-counterinsurgency (does that exist?) and available imagery. Mirzoeff says, "The sovereignty of the visualizer shifted ground so that authority was now derived from the ability to ignore the constant swirl of imagery and persist with a 'vision' above and beyond mere data" (292). We've talked about the ability to create counterpublics (Coombe) using various kinds of imagery, but I can only imagine how those counterpublics can be not seen (can something be "unseen" if we consider the ability of a large amount of "data" to overwhelm a "system" on an organic level?) in particular spaces like the Internet.
2) How is Mirzoeff defining "modernity" throughout this book? Perhaps I missed the part where he is explicit in his meaning. Is modernity a constant? What are its parameters?
As a final comment, my thinking about heroes led me to thinking about representations of the Hero in today's popular culture (a place I often go), and so I'm posting a clip that shows, I think, the sort of contrasting beliefs about heroes that we yet maintain. The clip is from a show called Firefly (created by Joss Whedon, lasted less than a season but now has a pretty large cult following).
In the clip, Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) says, "Appears we got here just in the nick of time! What's that make us?" His second-in-command, Zoë Washburne (Gina Torres), replies, "Big damn heroes, sir." And Mal then says, "Ain't we just?" The tone is sarcastic, but the imagery is quite heroic (backlit smoke, dramatic entrance, the bringing of the "light" of Mal's ship and Jayne's [Adam Baldwin's] laser rifle scope). Mal and Zoë both do and don't consider themselves heroes, even as they would be considered "insurgents" by the imperial Alliance government. That they used to be rebels against the Alliance does put them in that category, but they serve as heroes to many, and they seem to have some awareness of that, especially as they see themselves rescuing the "innocent" siblings Simon (Sean Maher) and River (Summer Glau). [Side note that for now must remain a side note: in this scene, Mal also lays claim to the person of the witch, who has the ability to "eat" people, thus also playing into the politics of eating as a way of establishing power/authority.]
InThe Right to Look: A counterhistory of visuality, Nicholas Mirzoeff (2011) builds a decolonial framework for understanding the contestation between visuality and countervisuality. Mirzoeff emphasizes that neither ‘visuality’nor ‘countervisuality’ are about visual perception; yet, these are slippery terms. He warns against the real dangers of missing what is crucial in visual study, what he refers as the opening towards the other (not as an object to be studied, but as a subject that is looking back) and to the political dimension of the image that is the issue of the right to look back. He explains that the concept of visuality refers to a set of mechanisms that order and organize the world, and by doing so naturalize the underlying power structures that are replicated and implemented by the transformations of the real. He argues that what is at stake is the ability to "assemble a visualization" (p. 2) and render it authoritative, over and against any claims
of autonomy on the part of those subjected to its material effects. He categorizes three "complexes of visuality" that were central in the legitimization of Western hegemony. These complexes are the plantation slavery, imperialism, and the present-day military-industrial complex. The plantation slavery is focused on the postcolonial management techniques of visualized surveillance, imperialism highlights the system of governance of the overseas empire (the role of the missionaries), and the military-industrial complex that
tries to see all possible insurgents without being seen by them. On the contrary, he defines countervisuality as not just a different way of seeing or a different way of looking at images, but the tactics to dismantle the visual strategies of the hegemonic system. He describes it as, "the attempt to reconfigure visuality as a whole" (p. 24). Therefore, he explained that "The right to look," goes even further than just the right to look back, although looking back is the first step towards countervisuality.
Mirzoeff book was a great reader as it offers a potentially rich and challenging resource for surveillance scholarship. I especially like how he explained Dipesh Chakraboty's diachronic binary distinction between the two modes of History under capitalism where,
"History 1 is that History predicted by capitalism for itself 'as a precondition' to its own existence, whereas History 2 is that which cannot be written into the history of capital even as prefiguration and so has to be excluded" (p. 22).
Mirzoeff instead comes up with a "successive set of synchronic complexes for visuality and countervisuality from slavery to imperialism and global counterinsurgency" (p. 23)
As Mirzoeff convincingly argues, each of the complexities of visuality is in some degree active in the present
world, and each is composed of a distinctive, albeit intersecting, configuration of three techniques:
classification, social organization, and aestheticization. Together, these analytically distinguishable moments work to naturalize relations of domination and subordination, aiming to render the association between power and authority neutral.
1. In the last few lines of the book, Mirzoeff questions, "How can the 19th century hierarchies of most higher education continues to be justified in the same space as calls for radical change? What are the goals of education for a post- growth sustainable economy? Can universities democratize themselves or should there be an emphasis on alternative modalities?" (p. 308/309). We as scholars from non-STEM area live through academic subordination everyday of our academic life. Being a part of a land- grant university can we ever overcome this subordination?
2. Even though Mirzoeff ends at a hopeful note, the ending I feel is somewhat unsatisfactory as he does not specify the new "praxis of the everyday" (p. 309). I was wondering how we as scholars might imagine and
envision what it might mean to stop playing second move to visuality, and create new futures out of this present world in which we all may already be suspects, anyway?
Mirzoeff, N. (2011). The right to look: A counterhistory of visuality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
In the Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality, Mirzoeff (2011) examined the how the concept of visuality and traced its various histories within colonialism and its effect on modernity. Visuality, according to Mirzoeff (2011), is “…that authority to tell us to move on, that exclusive claim to be able to look. Visuality is an old word for an old project” (p. 2). Visuality, then, is that which has been framed for us as suitable and “natural” to look upon and functions as a form of hegemonic discourse that perpetuates power for authority figures and disenfranchisement for the proletariat, slaves, unwashed masses. Visuality functions in three ways: to classify, to separate and to aestheticize (Mirzoeff, 2011). Through a decolonial perspective, Mirzoeff (2011) negotiates between points of visuality and countervisuality through three different “complexes of visuality.” These complexes of visuality are: the plantation complex, the imperial complex and the military-industrial complex. Within each of these complexes, Mirzoeff (2011) critically examines instances of visuality while also offering instances of countervisuality, or “the claim for the right to look” (p. 24). Countervisuality is a dissensus, a defiance to look where there is supposedly nothing visible. This dissensus directly challenges the visuality offered by authority, claiming that there is more beyond the frame of reference provided. Throughout the book, Mirzoeff (2011) provides these points of countervisuality and how they relate to, inform and ultimately change the complexes of visuality as dictated by authority.
Part of Mirzoeff’s (2011) conceptualization of countervisuality was the contradictions that could be created by subaltern groups speaking in dissensus. For example, Mirzoeff (2011) gave the following example in regards to the French Revolution:
…the visibility of colonial slavery contradicted the claim that the revolution had created liberty for all. In August 1789, the same month as the Declaration of the Rights of Man was made, a group of the enslaved wrote to the governor of Martinique: “We know we are free.” Those who are “slaves” cannot say “we are free,” except in dissensus. (p. 84-85).
Mirzoeff (2011) detailed other examples of this contradiction through discourse, including an unpacking of a painting of Toussaint where he is seated upon a rearing horse, brandishing a sabre. His analysis of this painting pointed to it being an artifact of countervisuality because it featured Toussaint mastering “…several codes of conduct that were typically held to be beyond Africans…” (Mirzoeff, 2011, p. 107). What is interesting about this is how this aspect of countervisuality can be used as a lens to examine other points of rupture between hegemonic powers and the subaltern publics. After reading this, I was left to think about the points of countervisuality within the gay rights movement—from images of the White Night riots to Anita Bryant being pied on national television, there are these moments of “what should not be” occurring in unexpected places.
While I am still working on the overall framework for my part of the discussion tomorrow, here are a few questions to get us thinking about the first part of the reading:
1. Mirzoeff (2011) spends a good deal of time critically analyzing the different forms of media prevalent during the French revolution, specifically paintings and drawings. Applying his framework of countervisuality to popular culture today, what other forms of specific media (film, television, music, Internet sites) could be complexes of countervisuality?
2. I would like to finesse out the differences between Visuality #2 and countervisuality during my time on the soapbox. Specifically, Mirzoeff (2011) stated that “…Visuality 2 would be that picturing of the self or collective that exceeds or precedes that subjugation to centralized authority” (p. 23-24), whereas countervisuality, is simply “the right to look.” How are these two things different and how do they play out within the three complexes of visuality that Mirzoeff (2011) examined in the book?
Mirzoeff, N. (2011). The right to look: A counterhistory of visuality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
"The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality" by Nicholas Mirzoeff creates a "comparative decolonial framework for visual culture studies". Visualizing the enslaved, the oppressed, and the downtrodden Indigenous is countervisualization compared to the caesarian hero worship of warfare history I grew up with. Carlyle's history volumes are the thread throughout the book that the author uses to cast his fly onto the still waters of history and entice the big fish to strike, revealing racist colonialism in all its imperial splendor. The chapters on the demise of colonial slavery were especially interesting and, I think, authentic countervisualization, although they were not an exhaustive history and left out much detail. The end of slavery has been questioned recently by those who study today's slavery practices. Trafficing in slaves is apparently common with children and young women especially vulnerable in certain places around the globe.
Carlyle's hero worship was the way history was taught when I was in school. The evolutionary advance of civilization by war and invasion was enshrined in Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar, and a long list of other conqueror/heroes produced by western civilization. Naturally, colonial visualization was a big part of the presentation of American exceptionalism. The revolutionary war heroics of George Washington, the civil war and the freeing of the slaves by Abraham Lincoln, these were the high points of history. No one brought up Europe and her colonies, other than to depose Monarchy and feudalism, so that America could prosper as the light of the civilized world. This look into truer history was both informative and timely. Countervisualization is an important text for American Studies to employ. Counterhistory critically encountered is always interesting, as we see different perspectives.
The Field Manual 3-24 of modern warfare acts as the endbooks for this counterhistorical escapade. CounterInsurgency (COIN) is now the worldwide battlefield that includes drone and cyber warfare, unlimited Presidential authority to wage endless war in preemptive strikes against enemies of US imperialism, economic hegemony, and cultural surveillance. The twenty-first century has already seen the destruction and occupation of ancient Babylon, which I participated in back in 2003, much to my chagrin. The RMA doctrine of the neoconservatives Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Cheney pushed George W. Bush into regime change in Iraq. I was first sergeant of a National Guard Transportation unit called to active duty for the 2003 invasion. Being a National Guard Technician for 28 years, I was fully aware of what Bush was getting us into. My memories of the utter devastation squalor and poverty caused by the shock and awe campaign still visit my dreams 10 years later. The visualization I experienced there turned me against the war and caused my removal from my unit and eventual forced retirement for "medical" reasons. I guess you could say my countervisualization of the travesty I witnessed caused my separation from the virtual reality of the imagery presented to the public by the embedded media. I became an active member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and tried to activate WSU to no avail. The reasons for my failure to activate a countervisualization on campus should be obvious. The propaganda machinery brought to bear on public opinion overwhelmed the few opponents here. Anyway, General Betrayus got his way and we now have endless war, on the cyberbattlefield and video game representation of insurgency as terrorism.
Mirzoeff's book reveals the struggle against Euro-colonial slavery that took place in spite of the powerful monarchs of Europe and their naval power. The rebellion in Haiti, which is a stark contrast to Dominique next door today, especially since the earthquake, was visualized as a heroic Taussant leading a grassroots strike against the owners and overseers of the Island's cane plantations. The failure of the freedmen after the strike to create a sustainable economy of eating despite their claims to liberty and human rights raises the question of countervisualization's historical accuracy. The formation of Haiti resulted in a long disaster still unfolding. The counter history Haiti brings to the book is therefore problematic in that Haiti has not been a success since the revolt. Why not and what can be done now to help Haiti become sustainable?
Mirzoeff's "Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality" explores the possibility that we are experiencing the unfolding of Orwellian surveillance, especially in the UK. Are we living "1984"? I think so.
The United State's political gridlock and the unlimited power of the Military Industrial Complex,(the wedding of private contractors with the Pentagon) feeds US Imperialism on the world wide battlefield. The everyday occurence of Drone strikes against human targets around the world and the collateral damage to innocent bystanders results in enhanced enmity against US Imperialism. Is this creating more enemies than it is destroying? I think so.
Final comment, Academia today is paying at least lip service to creating an interdisciplinary American Studies that conceives itself as critical cultural studies ranging from pop to hybridity. Does Mirzoeff's book represent a launching pad for countervisualization that will be useful in the future? I think so.
Nicholas Mirzoeff’s The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (2011) presents a “decolonial genealogy” of visuality and countervisuality by exploring three “complexes of visuality” and their relationship to modernity (p. 8). Each of the chapters is dedicated to exploring these complexes in their “standard” and “intensified” forms, taking specific historical and geographical moments in each chapter as metonyms for larger social processes. Mirzeoff calls these three major complexes the plantation complex, the imperial complex, and the military-industrial complex.
Central to Mirzoeff’s project, then, is his distinction between visuality and claiming the right to look, or countervisuality. Visuality is the process of making authority “self-evident,” or normalizing hierarchies of power. Mirzoeff speaks of visuality as if it were itself a social agent: “visuality classifies by naming, categorizing, and defining […] visuality separates the groups so classified as a means of social organization […] it makes this separated classification seem right and hence aesthetic” (p. 3). The right to look, on the other hand, “claims autonomy from [the] authority [of visuality], refuses to be segregated, and spontaneously invents new forms” (p. 4). To provide a brief illustration of these terms per chapter five, visuality was at work when English missionaries sought to colonize the Maori of New Zealand. The missionaries sought to legitimize their power over Maori land, resources, and governing systems by claiming they were bringing “Christianity, commerce, and civilization” to the “blank spaces of the map” (p. 198-9). Papahurihia, a Maori religious leader, resisted colonial rule and claimed the right to look by forming an indigenous countervisuality. Paphurihia took the missionaries’ religious texts and used them to claim that the Maori were Jews, a claim that resulted in many Maori coming together in opposition to colonial rule.
As an academic speaking to other academics, Mirzoeff is concerned with the interpretation of authority and how this interpretation serves either neocolonial or decolonial ends. Ultimately, he argues that academics (and the government actors they influence) need to have more faith in countervisuality as a strategy for imagining and thus enacting a decolonial future. The pursuit of the right to look by thinking against visuality will result in the democratization of democracy: “the choice is between continuing to move on and authorizing authority or claiming there is something to see and democratizing democracy” (p. 5).
(A rough draft of my facilitation questions for chapters five and seven.)
1. Chapter five is titled “Imperial Visuality and Countervisuality, Ancient and Modern.” In this chapter, Mirzoeff looks at how the hierarchy that separated the “primitive” from the “civilized” played a central role in the imperial complex of visuality. He explains that imperial visuality
understood history to be arranged within and across time, meaning that the “civilized” were at the leading edge of time, while their “primitive” counterparts, although alive in the same moment, were understood as living in the past. This hierarchy ordered space and set boundaries to the limits of the possible, intending to make commerce the prime activity of humans within a sphere organized by Christianity and under the authority of civilization. Imperial visuality imagined a transhistorical genealogy of authority marked by a caesura of incommensurability between the “indigenous” and the “civilized,” whether that break had taken place in ancient Italy with the rise of the Romans, or was still being experienced, as in the colonial settlement of Pacific Island nations […] The classification of ancient and modern cultures, overlaid with that of the “primitive” and “civilized,” designated a separation in space and time that was aestheticized by European modernism. Despite the seemingly arbitrary nature of such formulae, the result was suturing of authority to the newly centralized modalities of imperial power. (p. 196-7)
What connections do you see in Mirzoeff’s exploration of the “primitive”/”civilized” hierarchy under imperial visuality and Deloria’s analysis of non-Indian expectations of the “modern” and the “indigenous”? What can Mirzoeff’s theories of visuality and countervisuality contribute to Deloria’s project of questioning the unexpected? How can Deloria expand or challenge your reading of Mirzoeff?
2. Chapter seven focuses on global counterinsurgency as the intensified form of the military-industrial complex. One tactic used in counterinsurgency efforts is the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones. The use of drones ties in to Mirzoeff’s discussion of necropolitics, deciding who should live and who should die. In this last presidential election, I was particularly disturbed by the invisibility—in the debates and in media coverage of the election—of drones and the Pakistan and Afghanistan civilians that the U.S. murdered with this technology. Is it accurate to characterize the use of drones as a colonial act? If so, what does the use of drones reveal about the role of technology in contemporary colonialism?
3. I’m really interested in Mirzoeff’s discussion of maps as tools for visuality or countervisuality. How might maps be used to claim the right to look in the current context of counterinsurgency?
4. In the last two pages of his book (p. 308-9), Mirzoeff asks if it is possible that “we construct a countervisuality to counterinsurgency.” He suggests that yes, academics in higher education can construct a countervisuality if they consider “combining democratization issues with education and sustainability in the institutions of education.” However, Mirzoeff does not provide us with specifics about how this might be accomplished. All of us in class teach in higher education. Assuming that you agree with Mirzoeff’s argument and call to action, in what ways could you participate in forming a collective countervisuality to counterinsurgency? What are some of the obstacles or challenges of reaching this goal? What might countervisuality look like and how do we move in that direction as teachers?
I know that the reading for this week was dense and that we are only assigned the introduction and chapters 2, 5, and 7. However, I just want to encourage you to skim through chapter 6 which focuses on the Algerian War. In this chapter, Mirzoeff does a great job of analyzing the visual imagery in films about the Algerian War and connecting these analyses to his overall argument about visuality and countervisuality. I found the use of examples clearer than those in chapter 5.
Reading through this chapter and make me think of the October 17, 1961 massacre of Algerian protesters in Paris. Although Mirzoeff does not mention this event in the chapter (unless I missed it), the massacre--which involved the violent murder of some 70-200 peaceful protesters by Paris police and the beating and arrest of hundreds of others, and for which the French government has yet to officially apologize--seems to me an illustration of visuality working to render the Other invisible.