Not available in 2020/21
IR318      Half Unit
Visual International Politics

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof William Callahan CBG.9.05


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations, BSc in International Relations and Chinese, 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.

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, 3 hours of lectures and 20 hours of classes in the MT.

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 essay and 1 project in the MT.

MT week 7: 750-word essay project proposal

MT week 8: Rough edit of film  - approx. 3 minutes duration

Indicative reading

  • Berger, John (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.
  • Bleiker, Roland, ed. (2018) Visual Global Politics. London: Routledge.
  • Callahan, William A. (2018) ‘The Politics of Walls: Barriers, Flows and the Sublime’. Review of International Studies, first view.
  • 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.
  • Mirzoeff, Nicolas (2015) How to See the World. London: Pelican Books.
  • Rose, Gillian (2016) Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials, 4th ed. London: Routledge.
  • Shapiro, Michael J. (2011) Cinematic Geopolitics. London: Routledge.


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

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

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
First 59.1
2:1 38.6
2:2 0
Third 0
Fail 2.3

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2019/20: 14

Average class size 2019/20: 15

Capped 2019/20: Yes (14)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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