IR318      Half Unit
Visual International Politics

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof William Callahan CLM 5.07


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


Students must have completed International Political Theory (IR200).

Course content

We live in a visual age. Images play an increasingly important role in shaping international political events and our understanding of them. The objective of this course is to examine how visual sources - maps, photographs, film, television, new media - influence international political phenomena, our perception of them, and public responses to them. The course has conceptual,  empirical, and practical objectives. At a conceptual level students will acquire knowledge of key theoretical and methodological debates necessary to study visual international politics. At an empirical level, students will gain a better understanding of several concrete instances where images helped to shape international political phenomena, from wars to humanitarian crises, from global social movements to alternative world orders. At a practical level, students will learn how to make a short documentary film.


9 hours of lectures and 20 hours of classes in the LT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy. 

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 case study and 1 essay in the LT.

Indicative reading

Campbell, David (2007) 'Geopolitics and Visual Culture: Sighting the Darfur Conflict 2003-05'. Political Geography 26(4): 357-382.

Der Derian, J. (2009). Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment-Network. New York: Routledge.

Evans, Jessica and Stuart Hall, eds. (1999) Visual Culture: The Reader. London: Sage.

Harley, J.B. (1989) ‘Deconstructing the Map’, Cartographica 26(2): 1-20.

MacDonald, Fraser, et al. (2010) Observant States: Geopolitics and Visual Culture. London: I.B. Tauris.

Mitchell, W.J.T. (1994) Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Rose, Gillian (2012) Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials. London: Routledge.

Shapiro, Michael J. (2011) Cinematic Geopolitics. London: Routledge.

Thongchai Winichakul (1994) Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-body of a Nation. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Weber, Cynthia (2011) 'I am an American': Filming the Fear of Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Project (50%) in the LT.
Essay (50%, 2500 words) in the ST.

The project will be a ten minute documentary film, which will be made by groups of 2 or 3 students.

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
First 46.6
2:1 50
2:2 1.7
Third 0
Fail 1.7

Teachers' comment

'Visual International Politics' is an innovative course that combines conceptual analysis with practical skills. Through lectures and seminars it introduces students to the critical analysis of visual media--film, TV, photographs, maps--in the context of international politics. Its special seminars include practical instruction on how to make documentary videos as a way of probing how we understand the visual politics that surround us.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2016/17: 26

Average class size 2016/17: 15

Capped 2016/17: Yes (30)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills