Situating relation in photographic exposure: Education, ethics, and the framing of violence

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Barbara Applebaum


Education, Pedagogy, Cultural studies, Ethics, Photography, War

Subject Categories

Education | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


This dissertation stems from two questions: What might it mean to be a person living in a community with ethical relations to others and how do educators try to expose these relations to students? In an attempt to answer these questions, this project proposes an interdisciplinary way for educators to engage viewers with photographs of violence and suffering. Through what I refer to as a "hauntagogical approach," I construct a pedagogy that seeks to expose some of the discursive fields that haunt photographs of violence (haunt + pedagogy = hauntagogical approach). Instead of paying attention to what we can see in these images, which I argue can produce largely affective or empathetic responses, a hauntagogical approach sets out to better understand the situatedness of both the viewer and the violence by paying attention to what is presently-absent from the image. Photographs from the War on Terror, Abu Ghraib, and the Rwandan genocide are positioned within particular social fields, such as the historical, the linguistic, and the political, which constitute, but are absent from the frame. By situating viewing subjects as similarly contingent upon these social fields for their own emergence, this project locates ethics as a relation between the viewer and the violence and discusses how this relation forces viewers to negotiate responsibility. Using theories and methods from deconstruction, cultural studies, critical pedagogy, and media studies, this project considers how violence and viewer are relational, contextual, and co-constituted by a variety of different discourses. This relation, I argue, is what makes a certain type of ethics possible. I discuss how this project takes seriously the cultural production of knowledge and what the significance of this is for educational practice and policy. Lastly I consider the importance of cultural and media studies for colleges of education.


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