Conference Theme

Today, visual representations and media self-representations of physique/physicality are present everywhere: Be it in photo series in magazines, new reality TV formats or on social media platforms (e.g. Instagram, beauty blogs, and YouTube channels) – the ubiquity of digital media leads to an increasing presence of the body, especially in visually oriented media environments. The negotiation of physicality, body norms or deviations to the disciplining of body configurations (surveillance and control) is increasingly shaped by the media.

Visual representations und visualizations of physique/physicality lie at the core of these developments: body representations in the media are visually generated, (re)produced, distributed, modified, and appropriated, in and through images and respective practices.
At the same time these ‘body images’ are closely connected with (new) forms of societal power relations and orders. They are the central starting and reference point for the constitution and appropriation of symbolic gender hierarchies and identities, and the connected dimensions of social inequality (as they, for instance, are analyzed in Intersectional, Queer, Disability or Postcolonial Studies).

Overall, the current approaches (in communication science) in the fields of Visual Communications and Gender Studies, as well as the potential relations between these approaches offer a broad field for the study of the mediatized and visually constituted physicality. Hence, the main focus of the conference lies on images of the body and visual body practices in media cultures – against the background and in light of intersectional, feminist as well as visual communication and culture perspectives. It will provide a forum to present and discuss current research about historical and contemporary dimensions of body representations, practices and identity appropriations and negotiations in and by visual media.

Scope and Aim

Besides professional media offers (journalism, commercials/PR etc.) and contexts (e.g. political or health communication, protest campaigns), one particular focus will be on mediatized, visual everyday practices of non-professional actors (e.g. in social media). The possible topical fields range from social regulations and disciplining of the body by visual media and media representational forms (e.g. definitions of “normal/deviating” or healthy/beautiful/desirable bodies; visual inclusion/exclusion), the treatment of visuality and hate communication (e.g. fat shaming as a pattern of image speech), affect and body images (e.g. visual communication and sex trafficking), the meaning of vulnerability in visual representations of bodies (e.g. media representations of refugees) to ethical implications of violence in and by images.

The aim of the conference is to bring together different theoretical angles (e.g. post structuralist and deconstructivist theories, discourses about the body; normativity and visuality; visual stereotypes/frames and images of the body; body and the constitution of the subject through visual media; effects and the appropriation of visual communication; sociopsychological approaches to body representation), as well as to provide a forum for developing interdisciplinary theoretical approaches. These approaches will not only be discussed from theoretical perspectives, but also in regard to the wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as innovative methods and research designs. Furthermore, this conference seeks to spark discussions and an exchange of ideas about theoretical and methodological challenges; and how different empirical methods help us to analyse how images of the body are constructed and appropriated in and through media.

By interweaving different theoretical and methodological approaches from various disciplinary fields (and research traditions), the conference marks an important contribution to the study of the relationships between body – image – visibility. Considering the current emergence of right-wing movements in Germany and Europe and related antifeminist and racist discourses, it also aims at contributing to the deconstruction of hate speech and images of exclusion, discrimination and regulation.

The conference language is German, but also features various talks in English, such as the keynote by Rosalind Gill or Panel 1 on perceptions and affordances of body images in social media platforms (Thursday, September 29, 2016 – one-day-tickets available).

The conference is hosted and organized by a team within the Institute of Journalism and Mass Communication Studies(University of Hamburg), in collaboration with the Sections Media, Gender and Public Sphere and Visual Communication of the German Association of Communication Research (DGPuK).

Speakers of the DGPuK Sections
Cornelia Brantner (Technical University Dresden), Ricarda Drüeke (University of Salzburg), Elke Grittmann (University of Lueneburg) & Katharina Lobinger (USI – Università della Svizzera italiana).

Organisation at the University of Hamburg
Irene Neverla, Monika Pater, Nele Heise, Franziska Bauer, Nicole Sommer, Sabine Hoffkamp & Kirsten Cassau.