Raymond Williams Chair of Communication, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
Our ability to recognize genocide depends largely on the pictures through which it is shown, but those pictures began somewhere. This lecture traces the depiction of genocide in the news, showing how it evolved in conjunction with a set of political, moral, and technological imperatives. It tracks how certain visual patterns for depicting atrocity became recognizable during the Holocaust of the 1940s, how they were tweaked to accommodate journalism's display of multiple instances of mass killing, and how they have come to stand in for the display of contemporary acts of genocide, even when those acts differ from what the pictures show. Considering whether there can ever be too much visualization of atrocity, the lecture asks to what extent the depiction of genocide may have worked against its more complete public understanding.