Theorizing the Image for Security Studies: Visual Securitization and the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis
This article provides a framework for the study of visual securitization, that is, when images constitute something or someone as threatened and in need of immediate defense or when securitizing actors argue that images ‘speak security’. To study security politics is to focus on the public constitution of threats and dangers; to study visual securitization, therefore, requires an analysis not just of the image as a free-standing entity, but of the ways it is constituted through spoken and written discourse. To analyze the process of visual securitization, this article advances an inter-visual/intertextual model consisting of four components: the visual itself, its immediate intertextual context, the wider policy discourse, and the constitutions of the image. Three additional sets of theoretical arguments deepen this model by pointing to the specificity of the image as comprised through immediacy, circulability, and ambiguity, the strategies of depiction that images employ, and the genres through which images are brought to the audience. The applicability of the theoretical framework is illustrated through a case study of one of the most conspicuous cases of visual securitization: the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis.