(Un-)Formen der Sichtbarkeit

  • Johanna Schaffer



(Ungainly) Forms of Visibility

This paper discusses the contradictory political demands for greater visibility existing between the logic of representation and visuality. It makes the case for not forsaking the concrete engagement with and through images simply because they are constantly involved in visually perpetuating and establishing fixed identity attributions and thus play into the hands of hegemonic visual control systems (surveillance, voyeurism, identification, etc.). The paper argues that the ambivalences of visibility instead require shifting attention to the use of visibility as a political category. Here, it argues for a reflexive concept of enhanced vision and firmly upholds the issue of social recognition. Against the background of an in-depth discussion of the logics and problems of the political paradigm of visibility within different political movements advancing identity politics arguments, such as the gay and lesbian rights movement or migrants and the movements supporting them, the paper calls for constantly questioning the conditions under which stereotypes are produced. It also calls for examining identity-establishing images—both of an activist and commercial genre—within the context of discursive normalisation processes without, however, abandoning (one’s) presence and visibility.