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Defacing Power: The Aesthetics of Insecurity in Global Politics

by Steele Brent J.

Defacing Power investigates how nation-states create self-images in part through aesthetics and how these images can be manipulated to challenge those states' power. Although states have long employed media, such as radio, television, and film, for their own image-making purposes, counterpower agents have also seized upon new telecommunications technologies. Most recently, the Internet has emerged as contested territory where states and other actors wage a battle of words and images. Moving beyond theory, Brent Steele illustrates his provocative argument about the vulnerability of power with examples from recent history: the My Lai Massacre and the Tet Offensive, September 11 and the al-Qaeda communiqués, the atrocities at Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, and the U.S. response to the Asian tsunami of December 2004. He demonstrates how a nation-state---even one as powerful as the United States---comes to feel threatened not only by other nation-states or terrorist organizations but also by unexpected events that challenge its self-constructed image of security. At the same time, Steele shows that as each generation uses available media to create and re-create a national identity, technological innovations allow for the shifting, upheaval, and expansion of the cultural structure of a nation.

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