Chapter 2. The critical tradition in visual studies

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This article gives a comprehensive account of ‘The Critical Tradition’ in today’s study of visual culture. The Critical Tradition encompasses approaches which focus explicitly on the power struggles between different social groups, institutions and ideologies. A content analysis of articles published in Visual Studies and Journal of Visual Culture in 2002–2008 shows a rejection of material and political reality as a starting point and a favouring of relative and constructivist forms of criticism in humanist approaches of visual culture, and emphasis on empirical instead of critical perspectives in social scientific visual studies. Poststructural and postmodern criticism has dominated in visual studies. What visual studies needs, this article suggests, is a new focus on real power relationships.


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