Ariella Aisha Azoulay: Civil Imagination

A Political Ontology of Photography

The photograph is not just an image but an event, one in the longer sequence of a photographic moment. Challenging given definitions of photography and of the political, Ariella Aïsha Azoulay calls for us to use photographs of political violence, such as the colonial regime in Palestine, to envision the political relationships that made each photograph possible, and to be able to intervene in them. In this way, we can build our capacity for “civil imagination”: a way of seeing and imagining ourselves as part of the image rather than only as spectators.

The new edition includes a discussion of the legal battles to reclaim the images of the enslaved Papa Renty, held by Harvard University, rejecting the regime of photographs as private property, established by institutions that claim ownership of images seized with violence.

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