PhD Research

Burning Images: Performing Images as Political Protest

The research investigates a specific theatrical form of political protest: the hanging and burning of effigies. It is a widely known form of protest, since the production of affective images for distribution in the news media is essential to the practice. Collecting these images and reports provided the material for the research. Beginning with a close reading, I ordered the images according to various criteria: geography, chronology, motifs, themes and associations and arranged them into assemblages that make the relations between images visible and legible. As tools for the research, these image assemblages direct the inquiry into different disciplines (history, art history, anthropology, performance studies, photography theory, iconology, image studies, and political philosophy), bridging documentary and discursive modes of artistic practice with academic research. The images assemblages—in this dissertation arranged parallel to the text—are also integral part of my argumentation. This trans-disciplinary approach, I argue, makes it possible to comprehensibly assess the effigy protest practice in a single study.

Effigy hanging and burning has become increasingly visible in the news media since 2001 particularly in protests against United States military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, in US domestic politics and in the Arab Spring. Taking these recent events as points of departure, I investigate the conditions of this visual genre of protest, its roots and genealogies in a number of countries, its aesthetics and politics. Hanging and burning effigies is an archaic and ritualistic form of protest, yet is effectively communicated by global news media to access trans-national public spheres. As an indicator of injustice and violence is is a symptom of fundamental conflicts at the internal and external limits of modern liberal democracy. 
Back to top