‘Seeing’ the Women, Peace and Security Agenda: Visual (Re)Productions of WPS in UK Government National Action Plans

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Examining the visual (re)production of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda through UK national action plans and annual reports to parliament, this article proposes a new direction for WPS research. The visual politics of WPS, which affects both how the agenda is enacted and how it is encountered, has been largely understudied. To date, WPS scholarship has focused predominantly on linguistic modes of communication, neglecting both the visual aspect of WPS communication and the visual politics of WPS. The article argues that, as a vector of power, visuals matter in the agenda's (re)production, and therefore develops a theoretical and methodological framework to study the visual politics of WPS. In presenting the most comprehensive visual analysis of the WPS agenda to date, this article makes three distinct contributions to the literature. Firstly, it offers a theoretical contribution advancing visuality as a vector of power in the reproduction of WPS. Secondly, it proposes a methodological contribution by developing an analytical framework constructed around a visibility spectrum. Thirdly, it provides an empirical contribution through its focus on the UK as an illustrative case of visual reproduction. The visual analysis reveals four subject-positions placed on a visibility spectrum: the (hypervisible) ‘agential woman-in-conflict’, the (absent presence) of the ‘woman-as-victim’, the (visibility) of the ‘international community’, and the (invisibility) of ‘men and boys’. The analysis demonstrates that rather than challenging global hierarchies of power, these mutually constituted subjects visually reproduce particular gendered, racialized and colonial logics, further stripping the agenda of its transformative potential.

Original languageEnglish
Article number``
Pages (from-to)1643-1663
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Affairs
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


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