Chapter 4 - Politics of Identity in Visual Research

Critical Thinking

How important are visual dimensions of social life in forming identity?

1. Consider the model above. What impact types of visual signs might be associated with these social processes?

2. Consider a new product and think of the way in which the life cycle and journey of the product might concern each of the processes in the diagram.

3. Banal nationalism refers to the manner in which flags and other national signs are unfurled at certain times – but never far away, even when unseen. Indeed, Billig, who coined the term, suggests that: ‘Nationalism, far from being an intermittent mood in established nations, is the endemic condition’ (p. 6).

Think about your country’s representation in the recent World Cup. Was there a strong sense of nationalism expressed through flags and other insignia? Do you agree that nationalism is not just reserved for such overt displays but is actually the normal state of affairs?

4a. The poster above is from a photo taken in a seaside town in Galicia in 2009.
      ‘Turismo – Luxo para eles’
      ‘Turismo – destruicom da terra e precariedade para nos’
      Even if you are unsure about the verbal message1 try and analyse this artefact in terms of the contrasting visual signs used.

4b. What issues of regional, national, class or gender identities might be suggested here?

On one side the grinning holidaymakers and more sinister top-hatted personification of capitalism against the background of a pleasure boat. But on the flip side the mirror image is one of local Spanish (Galician) workers. Their stern faces and modest work clothing contrast to the vaguely ridiculous shorts, sunglasses and floral dress of the tourists.

1 Roughly translated it suggests that tourism means luxury for tourists – the destruction of precious land for us.

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