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Citizens of photography: visual activism, social media and rhetoric of collective action in Cambodia

Young, S; (2021) Citizens of photography: visual activism, social media and rhetoric of collective action in Cambodia. South East Asia Research , 29 (1) pp. 53-71. 10.1080/0967828X.2021.1885305. Green open access

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Abstract

We are living in the age of photography. Photography and visual social media flood our communication channels and become embodied in our daily activities. People who can afford the medium of photography – people who are described here as ‘citizens of photography’ – use these channels to articulate and represent their grievances. These exemplify a form of visual activism and articulation that have long been discussed in social movement studies, yet the links between photography and social movements could benefit from further examination. Drawing on a socio-environmental movement case in Cambodia, this article interrogates how photographic and visual representations and social media shape the outcomes of collective action by discontented citizens. I argue that the ubiquity of visual devices and digital access to visual social media facilitates underprivileged citizens in grassroots movements to aesthetically exert influence on their targets in order to leverage their demands effectively. Beyond considering images as messengers and mediatization, the power of visual images inspires and provokes action: participation in the protest, and re-production and re-circulation of the images on social media. The power of visual images – produced by ordinary citizens – is the performative force that brings about change in the era of social media.

Type: Article
Title: Citizens of photography: visual activism, social media and rhetoric of collective action in Cambodia
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/0967828X.2021.1885305
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/0967828X.2021.1885305
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Citizenship, visual activism, social media, photography, collective action, Cambodia
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10124194
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