The Politics of the Word and the Politics of the Eye

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abortion, ideology, Northern Ireland, political violence, solidarity, visual, working class

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The concept of worldviews gives a visual sense to the notion of a shared ideological frame, but misleadingly suppresses the visual itself. Against the standard image of worldviews, it is argued that the notion makes sense in connection with particular technologies of representation, notably newspapers, and is no longer informative about political beliefs. The example of Kristin Luker's work on abortion politics is used to show how weak the evidential base is for claims about worldviews. It is then argued that the kind of solidarity produced by ideological or `word', politics is different from the solidarities produced by the visual. Acts of political violence with strong visual representation produce sympathetic responses and are particularly effective in creating a sense of common victimhood. However, images also produce complex and conflicting responses that are less controllable. The visual impact of the World Trade Center attacks is a startling example of the differences between a politics of the eye and a politics of worldviews.

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Thesis Eleven, v. 73, issue 1, p. 51-69