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Title: A man, burning : communicative suffering and the ethics of images
Authors: Stamenkovic, Marko
Keywords: Self-immolation
Arts and morals
Issue Date: 2015-03
Publisher: University of Malta. Department of English
Citation: Stamenkovic, M. (2015). A man, burning : communicative suffering and the ethics of images. Antae Journal, 2(1), 36-57.
Abstract: This paper assumes a relationship among life, death and power in order to underline the following: under certain conditions, self-sacrifice—or the form of death broadly associated with self-immolation—has the power to mobilise political life. This hypothesis has been theoretically supported by Biggs’ and Bradatan’s work on self-immolation at large, as well as Murray’s work on thanatopolitics and Mbembe’s thesis on necropolitics. On these grounds I argue that photographic imagery of people who set themselves on fire can perform a political function; such a performance is feasible insofar as the visibility of their ‘communicative suffering’ in the process, and not death itself, relies upon some constructive (‘positive’) instead of merely destructive (‘negative’) aspects of human mortality. Whether a desired (or sometimes undesired) transformation may occur depends upon the ethics of images: their capacity to implicate viewers into a common cause must invoke a ‘responsive gaze’: not only in terms of survivors’ sense of empathy but, first and foremost, guilt.
Appears in Collections:Antae Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1
Antae Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1

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