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Disappearances in the Post-Transition Era in Latin America$
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Karina Ansolabehere, Barbara A. Frey, and Leigh A. Payne

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197267226

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197267226.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 07 December 2021

The Visual Image as a Tool of Power

The Visual Image as a Tool of Power

Chapter:
(p.205) 13 The Visual Image as a Tool of Power
Source:
Disappearances in the Post-Transition Era in Latin America
Author(s):

Leigh A. Payne

Hunter Johnson

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197267226.003.0014

The visual image is a powerful tool for mobilisation. This chapter identifies four key aspects behind its potency, each illustrated with contemporary and historical examples. First, the ‘medium is the message’ asserts that the photograph itself undermines the logic of the disappeared as ‘disposable peoples’. To be photographed is to be important, worth recording. The photo creates an emotional bond as the observer looks into the eyes of the missing person, a deep feeling, a sense of knowing. Second, ‘seeing is believing’: the visual image of the disappeared and disappearances validate, inform, confirm, and produce an inventory of disappearance. It thus challenges denial of the phenomenon. Third, the ‘disruption and emptiness’ of disappearance are marked by visual images. Chairs without students, bicycles without riders, silhouettes, photographs of family members who did not return home, appear in public spaces shocking out of complacency the false sense of safety disappearance happens to others – a kind of distancing that blames the victims for their own disappearance. Fourth, the visual image is a ‘weapon of the weak’, easy and inexpensive to reproduce and distribute widely -- locally and internationally -- to urge societies to see, to care, to help. The powerful tool of visual image is thus available to even the most marginalised in society to promote solidarity among victims and within broader, including international, communities. Through this tool, a deep personal story of loss is told that is shown to be not an isolated event, but a broader phenomenon. Visual image has the potential to correct misunderstanding of disappearances and to mobilise behind the demand for ‘never again’.

Keywords:   Disappeared, Disappearances, Disposable people, Medium is the message, Mobilisation, Photo, Photography, Seeing is believing, Weapon of the weak, Visual image

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