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Iconic Images and Identity

Examples from Tiananmen Square

The Goddess of Democracy

“Man Confronting Tanks”

Tiananmen Square Today

A Stone Icon (A Goddess)

The Objective Stance

Basic Political Alternatives Presented

• Represents a Chinese interpretation • Reflects a process of apropriation • Continued a civic republican tradition of figural representation • Largely displaced

A Photographic Icon (“A Man”) • Represents a Western interpretation • Advocates dissent and democratization • A framing device for political and journalistic representations of the protest • A stock image

• • • •

A disconnected viewer Emphasizes command and control Modernist scheme of representation Reflects a desire for legibility (as opposed to social chaos)

Force and Morality • Composition is allegorical • Moral constraint on force is precarious

Realism • A portrait of polical action without speech • Framing capacity of a camera lens

• The authoritarian state • The popular democracy movement • Doctrine of individual self-realization

The Global Context • Images project a liberal future, instead of reflecting an interrupted democratic movement • Chinese articulation of democratic self-assertion has been Westernized • A rationalization of historical change • Photography emphasizes universal rationality through abstraction

Reduction in Information • Intensifies • Organizes • Constructs

Iconic Images 1. 2. 3. 4.

Are widely recognized Represent historically significant events Activate strong emotional identification or response Are reproduced across media, genres, or topics

Spectacles of Dissent

Seeing Like a State

The Liberal Future

Hariman, Robert and John Louis Lucaites.“Liberal Represntation and the Global Order: The Iconic Photograph from Tiananmen Square.” Rhetorics of Display. Ed. Lawrence J. Prelli. Columbia: University of South Carolina, 2006. 121-138

Images taken from “The China Guide: Tiananmen Square.” The Bejing Freedom Travel Agency. php?action=activity/view&activity_id=21 (last visited April 2, 2012)

Bryn Clegg Professsor Danette Paul English 322 April 2, 2012

Tiananment Square  

Poster prepared for a discussion on iconic image and identity as seen through the evens at Tiananmen Square.

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