Arielle Azoulay: What is Visual Citizenship?

From Spectatorship, Race, and Citizenship

As part of a 2011 conference on visual citizenship at the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, and documented through a special issue of the journal Humanity, photography theorist and philosopher Ariella Azoulay offers a definition of visual citizenship that foregrounds its potential as a political practice. Distinguishing it from the model of citizenship inherited from the French and American precedents, which treat citizenship as a property that can be distributed and define it as an act of subordination to power, visual citizenship, or “the citizenry of photography” as she describes it in her work, allows us to rethink citizenship beyond our relationship to sovereign power: “It starts with the act of spectatorship,” she asserts. “We don’t look at the pain of others, as the famous title of Susan Sontag’s text would have us do, but we look at the photograph of disaster as something that concerns us. Concerns us not because we have to identify with the victim, but because we are governed by the same regime that produced this disaster.” In the catastrophic state of ongoing regime-made disasters in which we currently find ourselves, Azoulay proposes that the only language that can replace the terminology that produces these disasters is the language of citizenship.

September 13, 2017

New York University

Curated by

Gabrielle Moser