ISS-4313 Violent Conflict, Media and the Politics of Representation

ISS-4313 Violent Conflict, Media and the Politics of
Weight of the course
Course Leader
Teaching Methods
Modes of Assessment
Dubravka Žarkov
Dubravka Žarkov, Helen Hintjens, et al
Participatory Lectures, Tutorials
Assignment(s): 85%, Group Assignment: 15%
Josée Haanappel
Learning objectives
The core objective is to help students gain a critical understanding of the politics of media representation of violence
and war in the contemporary global context. More specifically, the course aims to:
 equip students with a deeper understanding of relationships between mediated and symbolic aspects of
exclusion, violence and war, on the one hand, and social, political and economic process of exclusion and
violence, on the other hand;
 enable students to critically interrogate the media-constructed and -transmitted production of knowledge about
war, violence and peace from diverse theoretical perspectives;
 equip students with basic skills in using specific tools for analysing gendered, racialized, sexualized and
ethnicized representations in visual and textual media material;
 give students an option of developing their own creative, media-based work that explores the politics of
representation in relation to a specific issue around war, violence and peace.
Course description
The last two decades have witnessed growing theoretical, professional and public concern with the involvement of
media in violent conflicts. From war in Bosnia and genocide in Rwanda to international interventions in Kosovo,
Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, from ‘war on terror’ to ‘Arab Spring’, the broadcasting, print and social media seem to
have become major players in influencing public opinion about specific violent conflicts, their protagonists and victims.
Media representations of gender specific violence – be it war rapes of women in Bosnia, or sexual torture of men in
Abu Ghraib – have often been noted as crucial for legal prosecution of the perpetrators. Different media images have
been used by politicians, militaries, humanitarian and development workers and human rights activists to demand and
justify various forms of intervention, or to explain a decision not to intervene.
In this course we examine the dynamics that link textual and visual media representations with those diverse public
actions and actors, as well as with military, political, humanitarian and development discourses and practices. We
perceive media as part of the process of production of knowledge about the contemporary world and the wars and
violence within it. We rely on critical scholarship - such as cultural and media studies, feminist, black, post-colonial and
conflict studies - in building our perspectives on media and war. Throughout the course we use a range of diverse
media material (from press and cinema to TV and web-based sources), look at the diverse national and international
media, and analyse how they represent past and present conflicts from across the globe. The course is based on
hands-on, in-class and home-based exercises.
Indicative readings
Allan, Tim and Jean Seaton (eds) (1999) The Media of Conflict. London and New York: Zed Books.
Rao, A., M. Bollig, and M. Böck (eds) (2007) The practice of war: Production, reproduction and communication of armed violence.
New York, NY: Berghahn Books.
Hall, Stuart (ed.) (1997) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage.
Said, Edward (2004) `Orientalism Once More’, Development and Change 35(5): 869-879.
Stacy Sullivan, S. and J. Anderson (2006) Reporting Justice: A handbook on Covering War Crimes Courts. The Hague: Institute of
War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).
Žarkov, D. (2007) The Body of War. Media, Ethnicity and Gender in break-up of Yugoslavia. Durham: Duke University Press.
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