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.

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