Statecraft or State-Scaping? Aesthetic Turn in the Study of International Relations

August, 2017 to July, 2019
CEU Humanities Initiative

The project draws on the aesthetic turn in International Relations, which examines how representative practices themselves have come to constitute and shape political practices, but it does so through not only the interrogation of these practices, but also their employment. This project uses methods of landscape and documentary photography as well as filmmaking as tools of interrogation into the ways in which states and other groups conduct ‘statecraft’.

The research is made up of four parts. The first part explores the construction of an image beyond the horizon of the state. It will focus on the use of images in Israel around the time of the ‘Second Lebanon War’, when there was talk of a ‘victory image,’ which would imbue the failed military exercise with a sense of achievement.

The second part explores techniques of observation and their relation to the continual project of writing over the landscape as an act of statecraft and state-scaping. The methodology would utilize the medium of photography for the creation of a visual lexical guide to the layered landscape of Israel/Palestine.

The third part builds on and extends the modes of interrogation established in the first two parts beyond the Middle East through a comparative study of Israel and Central Europe. Figures that emerge over the horizon of the national space take the form of infiltrators, immigrants, terrorists, refugees or asylum seekers. Both in Israel and in Hungary, the shape that they have taken is influenced by practices of statecraft and state-scaping.

The fourth part will run parallel to the others in the form of an introductory four-credit course into the aesthetic turn in IR that will introduce critical approaches to the International Relations of the Middle East and collate the findings of the research to introduce the students to new methods of visual-based IR.