Family of Man, Civil Awakening, and Potential History: Three Events with World-leading Photography Theorist and Critic Ariella Azoulay

The Cultural Studies program, with Corridor Culture, the Queen’s University Dunning Trust Program, and The Cultural Studies Speaks Committee present scholar Ariella Azoulay, visiting Queen’s from January 31-February 2, 2012.

Event 1. Chancellor Dunning Trust Lecture: Toward a Visual Declaration of Human Rights – Re-visitng the Family of Man

Tuesday, January 31, 2012. Location: Dunning Hall. 7pm.

Visiting scholar Ariella Azoulay will be presenting this year’s Dunning Trust Lecture, reflecting upon the exhibition The Family of Man.

The exhibition The Family of Man (curator E. Steichen, 1955) was a landmark event in the history of photography and human rights. It was visited by millions of spectators the world over and was an object of critique that has become paradigmatic in the fields of visual culture and critical theory. Ronald Barthes was the leading voice. A contemporary revision of The Family of Man should start with questioning Barthes’ precise and compelling observations and his role as a viewer. In my lecture I will argue that Barthes missed most of what the photographs in the exhibition showed, that what he claimed to see were invisible ideas, and that the hidden ideology he ascribed to the exhibition was similar to Stiechen’s explicit intention in curating it. Instead of granting Steichen the position of an omnipotent author as Barthes did, I propose to pay close attention to the exhibition’s potentialities, and instead of reading the photographs as descriptive statements with universal claims I propose to read them as prescriptive statements claiming universal rights.

Event 2. Corridor Culture: CIVIL AWAKENING: In Conversation with Dorit Naaman

February 1, 2012. Location: Wilson Room.  Central Branch, Kingston Frontenac Public Library, 130 Johnson Street, 7:00pm 

Using recent documentary photography as a sounding board, Israeli writer, curator and filmmaker, Ariella Azoulay discusses new civil languages emerging from the Social Justice Movement in Israel, uprisings in Egypt and Occupy Wall Street.

Event 3. Cultural Studies Speaks: POTENTIAL HISTORY           

Wednesday, February 1, 2012. Location: DUN 12, 11:30-1:30pm

“Potential History” is a workshop, led by Dr. Azoulay on visual citizenship. In Ariella’s own words “The past cannot be changed perhaps, except in this sense: it can be shown to be incomplete, the closures it seemingly imposes can be reopened, dormant potentialities can surface again and transform the present horizon of the political imagination, for the sake of molding a still indeterminate future. In the seminar I will argue that photography and citizenship are important tools in potentializing violent realities and go beyond their logic.

Potential history should be understood here in the dual sense of unrealized possibilities that still motivate and direct the actions of various actors in the past, and of possibilities that may become our own and be reactivated to guide our actions. Potential history is first of all history not shaped by the dominant perspective of sovereign nationalism. Potential history insists on restoring within the order of things a polyphony of civil relations and forms of being-together that exist at any moment in history without being exhausted by sovereign order. The question of potential history will be explored in relation to the two photographic archives that I assembled – Act of State 1967-2007 and From Palestine to Israel 1947-1950.”


To learn more about Ariella Azoulay and her work visit:


All events are free and open to the Queen’s and Kingston public.

FOR MORE INFORMATION please contact:

Jessica Jacobson-Konefall