Deadline: Sep 13, 2019
View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture, issue 25:
History in Images
Managing editor: Iwona Kurz
As a narrative about the past history is stretched between the perspective of continuity – longue durée – and the poetics of rupture related to traumatic events that redefine the history of humanity and the fates of individuals and nations. Images have accompanied history from the very beginning, just as they have accompanied people. Having emerged before writing, one could even say that images predate history, and thus are pre-historic. However, their historiographic potential has been recognized relatively recently. On the one hand, the birth of photography and then film, whose influence and meanings are based on their documentary aura have contributed to this, for better or for worse. On the other hand, the internal dynamics of disciplines concentrated on images – from art history to film studies – have begun to shift the focus from the history of forms, genres, creators and styles to the practices of production and reception, to institutions and their relationships with the wider economic and social context, and above all to the image of reality that can emerge from representations. This transition from the history of images to the history of culture was foundational for the study of visual culture, and a new type of history emerged – the history of media.
Thinking about images of the past beyond their purely illustrative function has brought about significant changes also in ways of thinking about history: it contributed to the interest in everyday life; it has revealed what is invisible in ordinary perception, unconscious (Walter Benjamin); it has opened up to new modes of storytelling, not necessarily linear, but rather configurable (Aby Warburg); and it has contributed to the creation of visual metaphors that embrace political order as the order of the optical power (Michel Foucault, Nicholas Mirzoeff).
However, images as source material or documents also provoke numerous questions and pose many challenges to researchers. The problems of historiophoty (Hayden White), i.e. telling history by means of images, similarly to historiography, have long been the subject of critical reflection resulting from assumption that history infests on the past for contemporary purposes (which has already been noted by classics such as Jacob Burckhardt and Johannes Huizinga). In recent years it was Georges Didi-Huberman who in his essay Images in Spite of All (2003) formulated the strongest possible methodological stance, originating in the moment of image creation, and on the work of imagination rooted in the ethics of empathy. This attitude, however, is actualized each time in concrete research and makes us face new questions about how to study history hidden in images. The model for this reflection can be cave painting itself, which undoubtedly bears witness to the practices of our ancestors – but we are still troubled by many questions: what do these paintings mean, what social function did they perform, what emotions they aroused and to what needs they did they respond, should they be read as a record of everyday existence, or of unusual events, do they conceal continuity or breakup, what can we read from them without captions or the context of their use (Ernst Gombrich)?
We would like to look for answers to the above questions. We invite articles that will address the question of images – paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, films, but also maps and charts from the past – as historical sources materials or testimonies. We encourage you to share your own research practice, methodological reflection or case studies focused on methodological issues.
For editorial and technical requirements, go to:
Deadline for submissions (full article, abstract and author’s bio): September 13, 2019.
Please send your proposal at: firstname.lastname@example.org.