Portraits of the enemy: Visualizing the Taliban in a photography studio

Date

2017-06-23

Advisors

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Sage

Type

Article

Peer reviewed

Yes

Abstract

This article examines studio photographs of Taliban fighters that deviate from popular media images which often confine them within the visual coordinates of terrorism, insurgency and violence. Gathered in a photographic book known simply as Taliban, these 49 photographs represent the militants in Afghanistan through a studio photography aesthetic, transplanting them from the battlefields of the global war on terror to intimate scenes of pretense and posing. Besides troubling the Taliban’s expected militant identity, these images invite an opaque and oppositional form of viewing and initiate enigmatic visual and imaginative encounters. This article argues that these alternative visualizations consist of a compassionate way of seeing informed by Judith Butler’s notions of precarity and grievability, as well as a viewing inspired by Jacques Rancière’s aesthetic dissensus that obfuscates legibility and disrupts meaning. Consequently, these photographs counter a delimited post-9/11 process of enemy identification and introduce forms of seeing that reflect terrorism’s complexity.

Description

Keywords

Taliban, conflict photography, war on terror, construction of enemy, Jacques Rancière

Citation

Chao, J. (2018) Portraits of the enemy: Visualizing the Taliban in a photography studio. Media, War and Conflict, 12 (1), pp. 30-49

Rights

Research Institute

Media Discourse Centre (MDC)