Theorising the visual

GPS Slideshow

Our concerns and engagements with the theoretical dimensions of the visual explore several lines of conceptual inquiry.

An important strand of this inquiry raises questions of the status of the visual as a discrete domain of research interest, provoked in large part by Bal’s (2003) complaints of visual essentialism. This important intellectual work examines the intersections of, for example, visual and material cultures, performativity and visualisation, image and text, interrogating assumed ontological boundaries and questioning the visual as an object of study.

A second area of our theoretical endeavours positions the visual within theories of social change and transformation, most especially the perceived shift from modernity to postmodernity. Alongside related notions of a contemporary ‘turn’ to the cultural, linguistic, ethical and emotional relations of socio-political life, the ‘visual turn’ creates opportunities for conceptual innovation and the reconfiguration of theoretical and epistemological landscapes.

Research and publications in this area include work on the transformation of work and labour; the intersectionalities of law and culture; science, the supernatural and transgressive displacement. These kinds of theoretical explorations not only make good and critical use of a variety of ‘theorists of the visual’ – such as Barthes, Baudrillard, Deleuze, Foucault, Goffman – but also encourage different orientations towards and alternative readings of the social scientific canon. Bal, Mieke (2003) Visual essentialism and the object of visual culture’, Journal of Visual Culture. 2(1): 5-32


Other research themes within this research group include:


People working in this thematic area include:

Dr Elaine Campbell
Dr Monica Moreno-Figueroa

Nick Appleby
Kate Botterill
Clare Fearon
Ann Murphy
Sophie Yarker