“Imagery” as Political Action

By Jeffrey MacLeod and Nick Webb.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Most of us would admit that the content of thought and action may be affected by its form. In short, charisma, style, and rhetorical skills may act as allies to content. But this is a minimal claim. The stronger claim would be that form may constitute content rather than merely adorn it. We shall argue that this claim is not an intellectual romance but crucial to understanding how meaning is made and shared. We shall note further that the emergence of a particular sense of form or what we shall term imagery may be less a strategy than an ontological and epistemological condition, more familiar perhaps in the realm of the arts – i.e. how something becomes has a lot to do with what it is and with the status we give it as knowledge. Imagery is no less than the process by which the Arts work.
At first glance, an image appears as a shortcut - an act of economy - a picture is worth a thousand words, a logo makes a product present, and clothing suggests personality. But an image may present essential newness – i.e. it may be neither a short or long cut – but perhaps the only cut.
There is an important sense in which we must explore the idea of image if we are interested in the mechanics of making and exchanging meaning. Academics of varying stripes investigate how metaphors work, how signs come to mean. Moreover, the Greeks began these inquiries long before the doubts of post-Modernist minds took hold. So why would professors of political studies and art be inclined to swap notes now on an apparently well-trodden field? We believe that the confluence of these two disciplines brings mutual benefits – i.e. the study of politics gains new strategies for understanding plays of power, and art comes to derive clearer strategies for making meaningful social change. We have taken as our theoretical starting point George Lakoff’s interest in metaphor and framing, and Murray Edleman’s conviction about the power of art in constructing political reality.
A model is presented that describes the role of artistic process in constructing imagery and examples are given of these processes at work in contemporary political situations.

Keywords: Imagery, Obama, Politics, Leadership, Art

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.69-82. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 962.784KB).

Dr. Jeffrey MacLeod

Associate Professor, Department of Political and Canadian Studies, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Dr. Jeffrey MacLeod is Associate Professor, Department of Political & Canadian Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Dr. Nick Webb

Professor, Department of Historical and Critical Studies, NSCAD University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Dr. Nick Webb is Professor, Division of Historical & Critical Studies, NSCAD University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.