Photographs of the Disappeared: Punctum and Aura?


Let's use this space to discuss the use of photographs in protests over disappeared persons. In many instances around the world persons protesting human rights atrocities display photographs of dead or missing relatives. It would be interesting to explore the history, meanings and variations of this practice, and also how photographs of this popular practice are themsleves composed and circulated through the global media.

This space is created to facilitate on line conversations in the Greater Boston Anthropology Consortium, especially between the classes Anth 164, Media, the State and the Senses (Tufts University; Prof. Amahl Bishara) and Anth 184b, Cross Cultural Arts and Aesthetics (Brandeis University; Prof. Mark Auslander). We are planning a pilot video conference conversation between our two classes on Tuesday, October 13 at 3:30 p.m., with particular reference to Walter Benjamin's classic "Work of Art" essay.

All GBAC members and members and friends of Cultural Production are most welcome to participate in on line exchanges.

Please post your thoughts and reflections in the Discussion forum by clicking on the "discussion' tab above.


Text Resources

Several texts would seem to be pivotal in pondering this complex phenomenon. Among these:

  • Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida, including his meditation on a photograph of a condemned prisoner on the eve of execution: "He is dead and he is going to die."
  • Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", especially his enigmatic comments on 'cult' associations of photographs of the dead, which might be taken to impy that the "aura' is not always depleted from mass reproducible images.
  • Diane Taylor. The Archives and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. (especially Chapter Six: "You are Here" H.I.J.O.S, and the DNA of Performance (on protests by relatives of the Disappeared in Argentina)
  • Vincent Druliolle. Silhouettes of the Disappeared: Memory, Justice and Human Rights in Post- Authoritarian Argentina Human Rights and Human Welfare. Vol. 9. (2009) Review of El Siluetazo. Compiled and edited by Ana Longoni and Gustavo Bruzzone. Buenos Aires: Adriana Hidalgo Editora, 2008.
  • Anthony Downey. **Thresholds of a Coming Community: Photography and Human Rights**. Aperture Magazine.

Visual Resources


Please add to suggested textual and visual resources