Censorship & Visual Culture

Gil Pasternak's picture
December 12, 2022 to December 13, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Communication, Cultural History / Studies, Fine Arts, Journalism and Media Studies

Censorship & Visual Culture

Ruling Images, Shaping Societies

12-13 December 2022

Online workshop hosted by De Montfort University Leicester, UK

Censorship & Visual Culture seeks to explore the impact that censorship, with its multiple forms and apparatuses, has exerted on the development and manifestation of visual culture worldwide. Since the age of the first societies in human history, pictures and images have played and are still playing an essential role in the creation, organisation and perpetuation of social and political orders. Together with other non-textual products, they shape the sphere of visual culture, through which ideas are often introduced and conveyed. For this reason, political powers have commonly sought to legitimise themselves and to strengthen their standings through visual culture. Yet, visual culture has often also challenged political powers through the introduction and circulation of other images of contradictory character, foregrounding certain conditions or realities that states, governments and political groups may prefer to conceal.

Censorship has been one strategy that such and other political powers have employed to confront the unwanted appearance of certain materials in the visual sphere. Often understood as the centralised assessment of material and the enforcement of restrictions vis-à-vis the circulation of those deemed inappropriate for one reason or another, censorship is commonly perceived as a well-organised mechanism geared towards suppressing the communication of certain types of information. However, the way it operates may be much more complex and indirect for at least two key reasons. Firstly, because censorship relies on the interpretation and judgement of specific institutions and individual censors. Secondly, because censorship tends to trigger informal layers of suppressive systems and assessment mechanisms, such as cultural conventions, grassroots censorship, and self-censorship. In our time, these also include state, corporate, and private forms of algorithm engineering, further dissociating censorship from any of the tangible powers invested in controlling visual culture.

In seeking to explore how censorship has affected the development and manifestation of visual culture worldwide, Censorship & Visual Culture creates a platform for scholars from a wide range of academic fields and disciplines to experiment with an underused research paradigm. Indeed, more traditionally, the study of visual censorship has revolved around the questions of what, why, and how visual materials have been excluded from a given visible sphere, and what practices have developed to share them within restricted social circles, nevertheless. While still interested in elaborating understandings about these issues as well, the workshop is even more eager to consider two additional complementary questions:

  • What representational conventions and image-production practices have emerged precisely due to censorship restrictions?
  • How have subsequently these representational conventions and image-production practices continued to shape the historical and more recent visual cultures familiar to us today?

Censorship & Visual Culture will investigate these and related issues in connection with examples and case studies from any historical period. But it will particularly expand the knowledge base about the conception, implementation, and operation of visual censorship against the background of the explosion of image-production and communications technologies that occurred between the late modern period and our time.


12 December 2022 (day 1)

All times in GMT/UTC+0

09.00-09.15      INTRODUCTION

Claudio Monopoli and Gil Pasternak

09.15-10.45      PANEL I: CENSORING ART

09.15-09.30: Alessandro Grelli (Università degli Studi di Padova - Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne); Between Self-censorship and State control: the production of military panoramas in 19th-century France (1814-1865)

09.30-09.45: Paula Fayos-Perez (Universidad Complutense de Madrid); Censorship and Self-Censorship in Goya and Grandville: A Parallel Study

09.45-10.00: Discussion

10.00-10.15: Erin Duncan-O’Neill (University of Oklahoma); Arrows and Quills: Daumier’s St. Sebastian and Press Censorship

10.15-10.30: Steffen Siegel (Folkwang University of the Arts); The Reviewer as Censor? On the Political Premises for Producing Photo Books in East Germany

10.30-10.45: Discussion

10.45-12.00: Break


12.00-12.15: Denis Skopin (Independent researcher); With Ink and Blade: Editing Graduation Photo Albums in Stalin’s Russia

12.15-12.30: Abhinandan Sarkar (Jadavpur University); From Print Media to “New” Media: Censoring Political Cartoons in India, 1975 to the Present

12.30-12.45: Ronnie Close (American University in Cairo); Aesthetics of Image Censorship in Egypt

12.45-13.15: Discussion

13 December 2022 (day 2)

All times in GMT/UTC+0


09.00-09.15: Silvia Genovese (University of Edinburgh); Productive Censorship: The Circulation of Photographs from Kashmir After 5 August 2019

09.15-09.30: Camille Melissa Waring (University of Westminster); Deghettoising of the Internet: Cleansing the Internet of transgressive sex sub-cultures

09.30-09.45: Discussion

09.45-10.00: Nelly Ating (Cardiff University School of Journalism); Visual Politics: Amnesty International's Evasion of Apartheid Regime Censorship

10.00-10.15: Charlotte Reuß (University of Applied Arts Vienna); Terms of Use(rs): Strategies of Bypassing Censorship on Social Media

10.15-10.30: Discussion

10.30-12.00: Break


12.00-12.15: Clara Masnatta (Independent researcher); Who’s afraid of Eva Perón? The manufactured controversy of Gisèle Freund’s photo reportage of Evita

12.15-12.30: Annebella Pollen (University of Brighton); Art, Science, Sociology, Pornography? Jean Straker’s Gynaecography in the Dock

12.30-12.45: Deléne Human (University of Pretoria); “Sex is sin!” A contrived landscape of Afrikaner morality: Prohibiting Moses Kottler’s commissioned “Man and Woman” (1957) during apartheid South Africa

12.45-13.15: Discussion and closing remarks


  • The language of the workshop will be English and it will be hosted online, via MS Teams.
  • Bookings will close 48 hours prior to the start of the event, and registrants will receive a link to join the event via their provided email address up to 24 hours before the event.


Claudio Monopoli |  PhD Candidate in Historical, Geographical, Anthropological Studies, University of Padua, Italy.

Gil Pasternak |  Professor of Photographic Cultures and Heritage, De Montfort University, UK.

For additional information and free registration please visit the Workshop Website