Struggles Over the Geo-Body Politic: Imaging Disaster in Sri Lanka

 

Struggles Over the Geo-Body Politic: Imaging Disaster in Sri Lanka

Sage Lab 3510

October 16, 2013 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

http://rpi-sts.wikispaces.com/Colloquia+Fall+2013

Vivian Choi, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society for the Humanities and the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell, explores how national politics can be both made and unmade through the production of images of the tsunami and the war.  After the tsunami, images and maps were given much credence and heralded for their value in representing damage and destruction.  By contrast, images of the conflict became highly fraught, illustrating different political interests.  Because the Sri Lankan government forbade the presence of independent journalists and international organizations into the war-torn North, rumors of the “ground truth” swirled in both local and international media.  The “unknown” during this time became a productive moment: humanitarian organizations and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) began publishing satellite images of the areas to which they did not have physical access.  Organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the UN were able to mobilize these images as evidence of human rights violations, but the government was able to combat these “lies” by dispensing interpretations given by their remote sensing expert who concluded that these claims could not be verified without any “ground truth,” and furthermore, there was no scientific basis to uphold these accusations. Rather than focus on the “true” content of the images, Choi examines the politics that are created by and through them.  She highlights the various political modes, motives and contradictions of truth-making in the war by both governmental and non-governmental regimes.

Vivian Choi is an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society for the Humanities and the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell. University. She recently completed her PhD in Cultural Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. Currently she is working on a manuscript that examines the social, political, and technological intersections of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and the Civil War in Sri Lanka. Choi is photo essay co-editor for Cultural Anthropology.

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