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06.11.2021 10:20 Alter: 2 yrs

Multiculturalism and the Politics of Visual Representation

Call for Publications

Theme: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Visual Representation
Publication: Journal of Multicultural Discourses
Date: Special Issue
Deadline: 17.1.2022

With the rise of globalisation and mass migration, multiculturalism
has become an important topic of debate. What happens when people of
fundamentally different, perhaps even incompatible, habits, tastes
and beliefs are forced to live side by side? And how can we best
manage this diversity? While these questions are at present
particularly urgent, they are by no means entirely novel; indeed,
they have been asked by theorists for many centuries – for example,
by Herder, Voltaire, and Nietzsche, to name but a few. Yet these
thinkers approach the issue from markedly different empirical angles.
For instance, while Herder and Voltaire are more concerned with the
political and linguistic dimensions of cultural pluralism, we find
that Nietzsche is equally interested in how such pluralism is
represented in aesthetic media – for instance, in music, poetry and
opera, but also in specifically visual media such as painting and
architecture. One of the principal reasons that Nietzsche analysed
aesthetic artefacts was because he believed they offered an insight
into the socio-cultural health of the political communities in which
they were produced. In this way, visual media can be said to function
as a form of cultural diagnostic.

In the 1980s, the topic became popular within Anglophone academia,
namely, under the heading of "multiculturalism". This development was
perhaps most conspicuous in the field of political philosophy, and
particularly in the work of Charles Taylor and Will Kymlicka. The
focus of this debate tends to centre on whether minority cultures
have a right to self-preservation. Those who argue that there is
indeed such a right, then explore the range of further rights and
legal dispensations that should accrue to members of minority
cultures. Whereas Charles Taylor claims a Herderian heritage,
Kymlicka broadly dissociates himself from historical treatments of
multiculturalism. But whether or not these Anglophone philosophers of
multiculturalism see themselves as part of an ongoing historical
project, they all similarly neglect a key part of the history of
cultural theory, namely, Nietzsche's emphasis on the diagnostic value
of visual media.

Fortunately, this is not true of all recent multicultural theory.
Beyond the confines of Anglophone political philosophy, visual
culture plays a far more prominent role (see e.g., the work of Bo
Christensen or Karina Horsti). This is perhaps most notably the case
in post-colonial theory and the history of art. Theorists in these
fields, often seeking to develop and empirically apply the ideas of
Michel Foucault and Edward Said, expose the way in which visual
artefacts disclose intercultural power relations. Theorists in
cultural studies have also begun to move beyond the discourse of
multiculturalism, for instance by focusing on notions such as
"conviviality" (e.g., Les Back and Shamser Sinha) or "cultural
appropriation" (e.g., Bell Hooks).

This Special Issue continues this line of research by seeking to
further clarify the role that visual culture plays in ongoing debates
about multiculturalism across a diverse range of empirical contexts.
Visual culture is not merely a reflection of power but constitutes
power through the production of discourses, meanings, and cultural
signs. In recent years, the politicisation of visual culture has
attracted considerable attention from academics, journalists,
governments, and civil society activists in the context of debates
about migration, nationalism, and the rise of the far-right in many
countries. Critical scholarship has documented the role of visual
culture in politics as a site of meaning-making, performance,
contestation, and resistance. Recent studies have examined visual and
linguistic discourses about cultural diversity in specific media,
such as comics and graphic novels, art museums, infographics, and
maps. However, there remains a lack of broader comparative and
interdisciplinary work theorising the interplay between what Latour
calls ‘visualisation and cognition’, that is, between visual culture
and ways of understanding multiculturalism.

We invite contributors to this Special Issue to address this gap by
critically analysing how multiculturalism is represented in different
visual media using approaches and methods from cultural studies,
philosophy, political science, anthropology, sociology, history, and
semiotics. We seek papers which articulate the various ways in which
more traditional forms of media, such as news reportage, television,
fine art, or film, are used to communicate ideas about cultural
diversity, as well as papers considering newer and emerging forms of
media, such as music videos, street stickers, and data analytics. We
encourage papers which provoke thinking on both the use of discourse
on multiculturalism by government actors, state institutions, and
private businesses, as well as individual cultural production and
counter-culture movements. Thematically, we invite contributions
which examine the intersections between multicultural politics and
issues of nationhood, race, ethnic and religious minorities, and
gender and sexuality, and especially encourage papers that bring
non-Western perspectives to these issues. By reflecting on a range of
dynamics of culture and power processes embedded in discourse on
multiculturalism, this Special Issue aims to elucidate the
politicisation of visual culture and its role in shaping our
understanding of multiculturalism in the contemporary world.

We invite the contributors to critically reflect on the following
overarching questions with respect to their case studies:

- How are everyday visual representations of cultural diversity used
by various actors to provoke thinking on power relationships and the
politics of multiculturalism?

- What is the relationship between visual culture and linguistic

- How is multiculturalism visually represented in different ways
depending on the specific geographical, social, and political context
in question?

- What is the normative significance of visual culture for shaping
public perceptions and influencing policymaking in such a way as to
improve intercultural relations?


Manuscripts should be no longer than 7000 words in length.
The deadline for submissions is January 17, 2022.

Please consult the Instructions for Authors on the journal website:

When uploading your paper to ScholarOne, please make sure to select
"Gibson SI”.

To submit a manuscript, please use the following link:


Catherine Gibson
School of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Tartu

James S. Pearson, Research Fellow
Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics, University of Tartu

Please direct any questions to the special issue editors.

Journal website: