The Emotional Imperative of the Visual: Images of the Fetus in Contemporary Australian Pro-Life Politics

Advances in the Visual Analysis of Social Movements

ISBN: 978-1-78190-635-4, eISBN: 978-1-78190-636-1

ISSN: 0163-786X

Publication date: 1 March 2013

Abstract

This chapter considers the value of visual analyses for studying social movements through a study of pro-life uses of images of the fetus in the Australian abortion debate. In doing so, it points to important connections between the study of emotions in politics and visual approaches to social movement studies. It also contributes new primary material on the politics of reproduction through its study of the Australian pro-life movement, on which little has been written. Through discursive analysis of visual materials and practices embedded in three case studies, I demonstrate the range of strategies being used; their selection was informed by a wider survey of available records of pro-life uses of images of the fetus over the past four decades. Emotion is a powerful element of politics, and images of the fetus challenge the emotions, and hence the humanity, of the viewer. I identify three major themes represented in pro-life images of the fetus: the wonder of life; the human form and human frailty of the fetus; and the barbarity of modern society. The meanings of these images are built on our parallel understandings of both sight and emotion as immediate and unmediated. Moreover, the ambiguities and dualities of images of the fetus make their themes more, rather than less, persuasive.

Keywords

Citation

Kirsty McLaren (2013). 'The Emotional Imperative of the Visual: Images of the Fetus in Contemporary Australian Pro-Life Politics', in Nicole DoerrAlice MattoniSimon Teune (ed.) Advances in the Visual Analysis of Social Movements (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Volume 35). Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 81-103

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DOI

: https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163-786X(2013)0000035008

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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