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To See (Better) the International: Semiotics of the Image and the International Politics


This article contributes to the research program of “visual turn” in International Relations (IR). It specifically engages Ronald Bleiker's methodological proposal which is rooted in assemblage thinking and calls for a comprehensive and pluralistic understanding of the relationship between visuality and politics. In this framework, semiotics should play a prominent role in attending to the role of images in (co)constituting the international politics. However, we show that Bleiker’s conceptualization of semiotics and its concepts is rather vague. The text therefore discusses how we can approach semiotics in a more rigorous way, and how the concepts of 'symbolism' and 'symbolic signs' can be understood from a semiotic perspective inspired mostly by work of Charles S. Peirce. The text thus offers theoretically sophisticated answer to Bleiker’s call for semiotically informed visual analysis. We illustrate our arguments by discussing scholarship on the politics of jihadist videos.


semiotics, visuality, assemblage, methodology, Peirce

PDF Research Article (Czech)