The clash of visualizations: counterinsurgency and climate change


Mirzoeff, N. 2011. The clash of visualizations: counterinsurgency and climate change. Social Research: An International Quarterly. 78 (4), pp. 1185-1210.
TitleThe clash of visualizations: counterinsurgency and climate change
AuthorsMirzoeff, N.

In the decade since the 9-11 attacks on the United States, the rhetoric of the "clash of civilizations" promoted by Samuel Huntington has been the dominant means of imagining global culture (1993). Concomitant with this purported clash between the West and Islam has been a "war of images," in which each side appeared to use images as weapons against the other and against internal dissent. In this essay, I will suggest that the image is deployed within a regime of visualization, whose success or failure accounts for its reception. I suggest that the U.S. concentration on counterinsurgency has not only supplanted and displaced climate change as a central issue but actively contests the possibility of visualizing it as such. The "clash of visualizations" between counterinsurgency and climate change is the engagement by which counterinsurgency seeks to (re)legitimize itself, without becoming beholden to the very different claims to social ordering that a prioritization of climate change issues would entail. Looking at this clash of visualization at the U.S. national level in New Orleans and at the level of the global imaginary via the Pacific Ocean and its island states, I stress that from both the formal and political point of view, such clashes center precisely on the definition of the real, the realistic and their attendant realisms.

PublisherThe New School for Social Research: Center for Public Scholarship
JournalSocial Research: An International Quarterly
Publication dates
Print10 Feb 2011
Publication process dates
Deposited21 Nov 2013
Output statusPublished
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Special Issue: The Image

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