VISUAL CULTURE

a 3rd year course in Sociology

‘Visual Culture’ is defined as the shared practices of a group, community or society through which meanings are made out of visual representations. It also includes the ways that looking practices are engaged in symbolic and communicative activities. 

Studying visual culture therefore means studying not just the visual products of society, but also the dominant ways of looking and seeing that define social identities. 

The module on visual culture offers a set of critical tools for investigating the importance of visual images and acts of looking in contemporary, globalized and technologized societies. 

Through a focus on ways of seeing and showing the human body, students will explore how objectivity, subjectivity and relations of power are expressed by visual means. Key questions include:

  • How are vision and visual representation implicated in the objectification of some human beings and the empowerment of others?
  • How are deviant identities controlled through visibility and invisibility?
  • How do images mediate our ability to relate to the suffering of others?
  • How do visual technologies such as pregnancy ultrasound affect who can speak with authority about the state and condition of the body? 

Students will gain familiarity with fundamental theoretical concepts relating to the analysis of visual culture – in particular ‘the gaze’ and ‘the spectacle’. Furthermore, students' ability to problematize visual culture in relation to expressions of difference, hierarchy and power in society is enhanced as well as their ‘visual literacy’ as an image consumer and producer.