The Visual Culture of Political Violence

The etymology of theory refers to visuality, to viewing, contemplation, consideration and insight. However the field of security studies has not yet paid sufficient attention to visual culture. Security policy reflects a discourse that is shaped by images and interpretations of images, usually politicized interpretations. New media technologies have facilitated real-time global television coverage, and the Internet and mobile phones with camera and video capability have altered the relationship between producers and consumers and between elites and ‘audiences’. New media technologies have also impacted the conduct of warfare itself from the training of soldiers through video games and cyber-simulations to the controlling of unmanned drones from continents far away. There is a growing sense within security studies that images are in need of further theoretical and empirical attention. A series of spectacular events, particularly from the early 1990s onwards, where images appear to have a decisive impact on the adoption and abandonment of foreign policies have also boosted the interest in visual representation. 

Shock and awe

Post 9/11 Era

Gerhard Richter, September (2005)

Marlene Dumas, Osama (2010)

The 20th Century is mainly characterized by the emergence of small and light cameras that have paved the way for professional photographers who report on major conflicts. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 has not only been a revolution for modern warfare but also for modern photography. The Russian Tsar’s official photographer, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, the Underwood brothers and Koson Ohara provide insight into pioneering photojournalism during one of the first modern wars. Various photographs of the Russian-Japanese War were taken by historians who traveled to the conflict zone as part of a group of military attaches and observers. These observers have contributed in various ways to recording the events between Russian and Imperial Japanese troops, among other things by recording data and images and analyzing the interaction between strategy, tactics and technological advances in weapons of modern warfare. Other influential work is by war photographer Robert Capa who records the armed conflict of the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939), Second Sino-Japanese War (1937 – 1945) and D-Day (1944).



Political Violence

The Theater of Operations: From Guerilla Jungle Wars to Urban Terrorism Attacks

Visual Culture

Ways of Seeing: The ‘Visual Turn’ in Security Studies


The Conceptual Evolution of Security Explained

selected literature

Political Violence

Visual Culture

Asymmetric War

Asymmetric War is an online journal about the visual culture of political violence. We explore and analyze the intersection of the Arts & Sciences relating to security and conflict. 

Publications deal with questions of international interest today. They will cover ideas and insights from a wide range of disciplines, including international relations, political science, art history, media studies, military history, intelligence studies and public administration.