Politics-Power-Pictures Reading Group

We are an interdisciplinary reading group interested in the politics of images and the power relations which permeate them.

Based at the Centre for Critical Materialist Studies in the School of Fine Art, History of Art Cultural Studies, University of Leeds, the reading group has been organised in collaboration with the University’s School of Languages, Cultures and Societies and the History of Art Department at the University of York.

Our goal is to provoke theoretical interventions and practicable analyses of pictures, images, and visuals as they relate to politics and the political. We read and discuss seminal theoretical texts, as well as presenting our own images from art, cinema, or further afield.

Following the first week’s discussion that focused on Agamben’s conceptions of sovereignty, in our second meeting we will discuss Ariella Azoulay’s theory of the ‘civil contract of photography’, reading from the second chapter of Ariella Azoulay’s The Civil Contract of Photography.

This theory was influenced by Agamben’s rationale. Azoulay’s book was published in 2008, and has admittedly marked a shift in the field of photographic theories. In this chapter she explains how the photographic ‘civil contract’ is created between the three participants – photographer, photographed person, spectator – and is not controlled by a sovereign power. Hence, we will discuss why and how Azoulay’s theory is so pivotal in the field of visual culture, and how can we approach her ‘ideal’ spectator.

A PDF of the chapter and further information can be found here.

The reading group is aimed at MA and PhD students who are interested in interdisciplinary debates across political, critical and aesthetic theory. For further information, please email politicspowerpictures@gmail.com
The next meeting of the Politics-Power-Pictures Reading Group is 23 March. More information can be found here.

Image credit: Detail from Matthieu Laurette, Mobile Information Stand For Moneyback Products (1999). Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33