Seeing Syria, differently

photography and its publicsThanks so much to Melissa Miles and Edward Welch for including my chapter, “Hospitable Looking: Towards a Different Way of Seeing the War in Syria,” in Photography and Its Publics. This chapter builds on the paper I presented (thanks for that invitation too!) at a symposium by the same name in Prato, Italy, a few years ago.  In “Hospitable Looking,” I reflect on the pattern of optimism that global publics seem to evince about images from the war in Syria: the sense that each new photographic revelation of atrocity will be the one that finally compels an end to this conflict. Tracing the upwellings of this optimism, I explore the vexed, often solipsistic assumptions about spectatorial empathy that underpin it.  Ultimately, I argue that this conflict requires a different visual ethics.

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