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Distant Wars Visible

Distant Wars Visible: The Ambivalence of Witnessing

Wendy Kozol
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Distant Wars Visible
    Book Description:

    In our wired world, visual images of military conflict and political strife are ubiquitous. Far less obvious, far more elusive, ishowwe see such images, how witnessing military violence and suffering affects us.Distant Wars Visiblebrings a new perspective to such enduring questions about conflict photography and other forms of visual advocacy, whether in support of U.S. military objectives or in critique of the nation at war.

    At the book's center is what author Wendy Kozol calls an analytic of ambivalence-a critical approach to the tensions between spectacle and empathy provoked by gazing at military atrocities and trauma. Through this approach,Distant Wars Visibleuses key concepts such as the politics of recoil, the notion of looking elsewhere, skeptical documents, and ethical spectatorship to examine multiple visual cultural practices depicting war, on and off the battlefield, from the 1999 NATO bombings in Kosovo to the present.

    Kozol's analysis draws from collections of family photographs, human rights photography, independent film production, photojournalism, and other examples of war's visual culture, as well as extensive visual evidence of the ways in which U.S. militarism operates to maintain geopolitical dominance-from Fallujah and Abu Ghraib to the most recent drone strikes in Pakistan.

    Throughout, Kozol reveals how factors such as gender, race, and sexuality construct competing visualizations of identity in a range of media from graphic narrative and film to conflict photography and battlefield souvenirs-and how contingencies and contradictions in visual culture shape the politics and ethics of witnessing.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4277-3
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction: Looking Elsewhere
    (pp. 1-22)

    In the spring of 2003, a photojournalist with the Associated Press (AP), Alexander Zemlianichenko, took a series of photographs of the unearthing of a mass grave left by the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein in Mahaweel, sixty miles south of Baghdad.¹ Women in blackabayasand men dressed in whitedishdashaswalk among rows of wrapped bodies, some bending over to look for marks of identification (Figure 1). Zemlianichenko stages an elegy of suffering (Reinhardt 2007) through stark compositions of emblematic figures and seemingly endless rows of bodies in a desolate landscape. As with photojournalism more broadly, the Mahaweel pictures...

  4. 1 Domesticating War in Kosovo: Media Witnessing and Transnational Motherhood
    (pp. 23-60)

    In April 1999 American news media extensively reported on the NATO bombings in Serbia and Kosovo/a,¹ a seventy-eight-day military effort led by the United States to force the regime of Slobodan Milošević to end the persecution of the Albanians in the previously autonomous region of Kosovo/a. Throughout the 1990s, news media reported on genocide and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, including stories of rape, torture, concentration camps, and mass killings by Serbian forces against various ethnic groups, including Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims. In Kosovo/a, a campaign by Serbian military and paramilitary forces against ethnic Albanians (who made up 90...

  5. 2 Human Rights, Visual Rhetoric: Photojournalism and the War in Afghanistan
    (pp. 61-94)

    Two blue burkas hang on hooks on the back wall between sunlit windows in Marco Di Lauro’s November 2001 photograph of an empty cell in a women’s prison in Kabul, Afghanistan (Figure 9). The robes hang above a pillow propped up alongside a mat, as if someone were about to sit down or fill out the empty clothing, yet neither the caption nor the image provides any information about individual incarceration histories. Instead, the absence of human figures gestures toward a larger scale of women’s suffering. Although the caption states that “the prison remains a reminder of the repression women...

  6. 3 Precarity in the Night Sky: Missile Defense Advocacy and the U.S. Surveillance Regime
    (pp. 95-126)

    In 2013 the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy institute, included on its website a documentary film titled33 Minutes: Protecting America in the New Missile Age.¹ Opening with an animated sequence featuring the “blue planet” and a time code at 00.00.00, the simulated camera’s gaze zooms down through the atmosphere to an aerial view of a missile launching into Space.² The missile then hurtles across the globe toward North America as the time code advances and the soundtrack’s repetitive beat quickens. Once through the atmosphere, the film jumps back and forth between the animated missile speeding toward Manhattan and video...

  7. 4 Battlefield Trophies: Soldiers’ Archives and the Affective Politics of Recoil
    (pp. 127-164)

    The futuristic imaginaries of missile defense advocacy highlight the centrality of the terror threat to discursive rationales for the War on Terror and for anticipated wars in the future. As I argued in the last chapter, frictional affects within and across visualizations of terror make them profoundly ambivalent sites for witnessing the nation at war. Disembodiment, in particular, complicates both prostatist and critical positions. If terror has been determinative in legitimizing the state’s unfettered military and surveillance powers in this present war, its counterpart has been the exercise of torture unleashed against suspected terrorists from Guantánamo Bay to Bagram Airfield...

  8. 5 Skeptical Documents: Toward an Ethics of Spectatorship
    (pp. 165-198)

    ThroughoutDistant Wars Visible,I have explored ambivalence as an analytic that provides insight into competing impulses within visual witnessing practices that pursue the ethical imperative to make public the consequences of military conflicts. This analytic exposes how the witnessing gaze can also function as either a mechanism for distancing the self from suffering or as a way to appropriate that experience as if it were one’s own. The risk of distancing, like appropriation, is that this can be an act of displacement or disavowal for the viewer. Here I pursue further the relationship between ambivalence and accountability raised in...

  9. Conclusion: From the Sky, on the Ground
    (pp. 199-206)

    President Barack Obama’s nomination of John Brennan to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2013 provoked the first sustained public conversations about the covert use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) by the United States in the War on Terror. UAV, or drone, technology offers the newest in a long line of technostrategic displays of U.S. military supremacy. Foundational to this current staging of imperial power is an orientalist logic in which the gaze from above at (invisible) Islamic militants in isolated mountainous or desert terrains establishes the rationale for imperial border crossings indifferent to territorial sovereignty (Feldman...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 207-210)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 211-226)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-246)
  13. Index
    (pp. 247-272)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-273)