Visual Refection 4: The Global Image and the “Exotic Other”

Select a photograph and analyze it in terms of how it represents cultural difference, including the ethics of
such representation. In Reading National Geographic, Catherine A. Lutz and Jane L. Collins look at how
photography in National Geographic magazine established patterns of representation that simultaneously
idealized and exoticized the “non-Western” “Other” in relationship to the norms and values of “the West”
and the so-called “modern world.” Draw on Lutz and Collins to develop an argument that assesses how
your image represents cultural difference. As we’ve done in every reflection, use the tools of visual analysis
to unpack details from your image that prove your argument. You should also identify ethical perspectives
within your analysis and address your positionality in relationship to the image. In other words, this
reflection asks you to combine the critical visual analysis that we’ve been practicing all semester with selfreflection on the ethics of spectatorship. As always, I am available to discuss possibilities/brainstorm ideas.
Due: __. Submit through Blackboard as a .doc or .docx file. No other file format will be
graded. Your reflection should be about 1,000 words, double-spaced, and in a 12-point font with
numbered pages and one-inch margins. Include your image in the file and cite all sources perfectly.

  1. Central Thesis/Argument (40 Points)
    Develop an argument that considers how your photo confirms, alters, or denies one or more of the claims
    that Lutz and Collins make. Aspects of cultural difference that simultaneously idealize and exoticize the
    Other according to Lutz and Collins include (but are not limited to):
    • Ritual & dress
    • The smile & the portrait
    • The “gentle native” & the avoidance of violence
    • War without brutalized bodies
    • The virile tribesman & the naked Black woman
    • The middle-class world & idealization of work
    • People without history & peoples of nature
    • The contrast of “tradition” and “modernity”
    Your analysis should include an explanation of the particular claim or claims that you choose and an
    equally careful explanation of how your photograph relates to Lutz and Collins’s claim(s). Their book was
    centered on photography in National Geographic in a particular period (1950–86); you might select a more
    recent National Geographic photograph or you might select an image that, although published in another
    outlet, relates to one or more of National Geographic’s tropes of representation.
  2. Self-reflection and Ethical Analysis (25 Points)
    At the same time, this is an essay where you need to reflect on your relationship to the photograph. That
    requires self-reflection on your positionality in terms of things like your national identity or origin, racial
    identity, ethnic identity, gender identity, socioeconomic status, religious identity, age identity, and other
    aspects of your social identity. Most basically, ask yourself, Who is allowed to gaze and who is obliged to
    submit to that gaze? Other questions related to the ethical dimensions of representation include:
    • What emotional appeals does my image make? Does the image invite empathy and political engagement or
    numb the viewer into a state of “compassion fatigue”?
    • Which images should be shared and which should not? What conditions should there be that allow us to
    judge whether such sharing is ethical or not?
    • How do tropes of empowerment, disempowerment, or marginalization reinforce stereotypes of Otherness
    and “non-Western” cultures? Who is viewed as “normal” and who is “abnormal”? What values do these
    “ways of seeing” promote? And what are the political and ethical implications of those ways of seeing?
    Within your analysis, use questions such as these to develop a judgment on the ethics of representation.
  3. Style and Mechanics (10 points)
    Your writing should be graceful have a sense of joy that is the result of multiple revisions. Mechanics
    should be free of errors and typos. Cite all sources in a standard format (e.g., APA, Chicago, or MLA
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