Battlegrounds: Sites and Sights of Conflict
As political unrest persists around the world, new visual media have in many ways usurped cinema’s privileged role in confronting and representing conflict. Across increasingly amorphous battlegrounds, cinema and new media have muddled the line that distinguishes representation from participation. The U.S. Army and Hezbollah have both developed first-person shooter video games, the Israeli Defense Force maintained a YouTube channel to manage public relations during “Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza in 2008, and soldiers utilize video game-like consoles to pilot unmanned predator drones in countries thousands of miles away. If “swaying hearts and minds” has become one the principal strategies for achieving objectives in modern wars, then the visual has become the chief means of gaining access to those sympathies.
Our conference welcomes a broad range of approaches to the ways in which visual media both directly and indirectly affect the cultural experience of war. While visual media theory and history continue to provide particular insight into these concerns, the proliferation of sites (and sights) of conflict calls for bold and exploratory analyses of visual media subject matter, ranging from mainstream to marginal cultural forms, from mass media-mediated “reception” of war to its more direct endurance of its effects. By examining sites of conflict that include but are not limited to historical battlefields, contemporary areas of political strife, and the imaginary/allegorical combat arenas of fictional skirmishes, we adopt a broad conception of “war” to better understand the role that visual media has played (and continues to play) in shaping and reshaping sites of conflict.