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Marie Curie Workshop on visual governance: Theorizing the role of images in migration governance

October 24, 2023
9:30 AM EDT - 4:00 PM EDT
Hybrid (In person at CERC Migration office/ online via Zoom)
Migrants walking into a building

This workshop was co-convened by Alice Massari, Marie Curie Global Fellow and Anna Triandafyllidou, CERC Migration Chair, Toronto Metropolitan University.

As the adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Images have become usual, if not essential, elements of communication on practically every issue. Topics of global relevance in particular have been represented by a wide array of images: images of overcrowded migrant boats, starving polar bears on melting glaciers, and infographics showing the latest COVID-19 mortality rates have gone viral. Visuality has assumed even more relevance in the contemporary world where social media, heavily based on images, are widely used to produce content and as a source of information by a wide range of actors. Different strands of scholarship from distinct perspectives have indeed reflected over the interaction of images and international politics. Although the role of visuality in global affairs has been to some extent addressed by some notable studies, its role in governance dynamics remains largely untheorized. In an increasingly audio-visual and interconnected world, what is the power of images and how do powerful actors use images and visuality? Images can transcend the boundaries of language and at the same time are even more open than verbal community to multiple interpretations depending on the audience and the audience’s context.

This workshop explored the relationship between visuality (or visual communication or visual objects), power and governance from both theoretical and methodological perspectives. Some of the questions that were asked include: 

  • What governance level and actors should be included in this new research strand? 
  • How should images be assessed for their impact and effects outside of a cause-effect logic? 
  • What is the role of media and particularly social media as carriers and multipliers of the visual dimension? 
  • How can we conceptualise this role? Do social media provide the context within which governance takes place or are they actors in their own right?
9:30-10 AM EDT Welcome coffee
10 AM EDT Opening remarks, Anna Triandafyllidou, CERC Migration
10:10 AM-12:30 PM EDT

Panel 1 Theorizing the role of images in the study of migration governance

Chair: Zhixi Zhuang, School of Urban and Regional Planning, TMU; Co-chair: Younes Ahouga, CERC Migration, TMU

12:30-1:30 PM EDT Lunch break
1:30-3:45 PM

Panel 2 Visual methodologies in the study of migration governance

Chair: Katty Alhayek, The Creative School, TMU; Co-chair: Ashika Niraula, CERC Migration 

3:45-4 PM EDT  Reflections and concluding remarks