2014-04-10 Image Operations: Berlin conference

Ben O'Loughlin is an invited speaker at the conference Image Operations in Berlin organised by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlinon 10-12 April 2014. Other speakers include W.T.J. Mitchell, Timothy Lenoir and Nicholas Mirzoeff. 

Below are details of Ben's paper. 

Images of the World, Images of Conflict


In the short story Pascale's Sphere Borges wrote, “universal history is the history of a few metaphors.” The history of world politics certainly seems marked by a few recurring concepts and metaphors: the universal and the particular, the inside and the outside, the balance of power, and the ideal of symmetry and actuality of chaos. Across eras, these concepts have shaped the image of world politics held by leaders, citizens and scholars. Such concepts are abstract but become visualized through diplomacy, war and cartography and through the lived experience of world affairs. For critical scholars of International Relations, these concepts and the images they translate into are responsible for conflict, for they become concrete in the states, borders and security dilemmas that propel us from conflict to conflict. It follows that there is a relationship between “the image of world politics” and actual visual images of world politics; between abstract, conceptual understandings of the ontology and mechanics of International Relations and the horrific news and events we witness every day. Borges concludes his story,‘Perhaps universal history is the history of the various intonations of a few metaphors.’ If so, we are doomed to variations on the same bleak events and the practice of international relations is ultimately tragic, as many of its founders believed.