IR318      Half Unit
Visual International Politics

This information is for the 2021/22 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 not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

This course has a limited number of places (it is capped).

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.


This course is delivered through lectures and classes totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Michaelmas Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of in-person classes/classes delivered online.

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. 2 minutes duration

Indicative reading

Bleiker, Roland, ed. (2018) Visual Global Politics. London: Routledge.

Callahan, William A. (2020) Sensible Politics: Visualizing International Relations. New York: Oxford University Press.

Harman, Sophie. (2019) Seeing Politics: Film, Visual Method, and International Relations. McGill-Queens University Press.

Rose, Gillian (2016) Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials, 4th ed. London: Routledge.

Berger, John (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.

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

Mirzoeff, Nicolas (2015) How to See the World. London: Pelican Books.

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 5-minute documentary film, which will be made by teams of 3 students.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Capped 2020/21: No

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