Session 1: Codes from the Past to the Present
Chair: Phil Fitzsimmons
Making Authority Visible: From Imperial Seals to National Emblem
Research Fellow, Institute for Strategic and Development Studies, European University
This paper is an attempt to classify a national as opposed to an imperial or aristocratic visual culture. The focus is on seals of authority, which in the case of a nation-state might be called a national emblem while in the case of an imperial institution is called an armorial bearing. There is no established scholarly tradition devoted to the study of national emblems. However, the study of armorial bearings is well established within the heraldic tradition, that is, the tracing of aristocratic genealogies; more often then not, the emphasis is on aristocratic families in the lands of the former Roman Christendom. In this paper a heraldic approach is employed for the analysis of Ottoman imperial symbols. The focus of this paper is the gradual evolution of visual political culture in the Balkans, from an Ottoman-imperial to a Turkish-national expressive contour. It is hoped that this paper is contributing to the understanding of nationalism as a school of human expression and, more specifically, the visual literacy required to analyze symbols of national significance.
‘Simiya’: Visual Literacy, Cultural Identity, and the Case of British Picture Books about the West Indies
Department of English, Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY, USA
‘It is through recruitment into and participation in Discourse that we acquire and develop our identities.’ (Lankshear and Snyder 2000: 29)
Since the early days of colonisation, British authors have produced visual images of the West Indies for children. These visual texts were designed to be read by British children, and included cultural information, not necessarily about the ‘real’ West Indies, but about the West Indies that the British wanted British child readers to see; as one author writes, ‘stigmatization, servitude, and subordination hinge upon a group’s confinement to singular essentialized “fields,” “reservations,” and domestic spaces of both labor and symbolic representations’ (Meacham 2001: 188). But ‘Literacies are forged and shaped through human activity’ (Roberts 1995: 421), and as West Indian immigrants began to come to Britain en masse, particularly following World War II, the images of the West Indies found in picture books began to change to include more and different cultural information. At first, many of these changes were reactionary, as white Britons adjusted to the change in their own society, but became more positive as West Indian immigrants to Britain began to produce their own picture books. Recently, there has been a further change, as second generation Black Britons with West Indian heritage begin to produce picture books as well. Paulo Freire argues for ‘reality as process, as transformation, rather than static entity’ (1993:73), and these changes in illustrated books provide an excellent opportunity to track both visual and cultural literacy across time. Using the West Indies in picture books as example, this paper will trace the ways visual literacy reveals the cultural hegemony underlying society, and the assertion of all people: ‘Simiya—I’m here.