Judith Butler on Susan Sontag

Selected by Naomi Safran-Hon ('12)

"There are two main questions that interest me in this text and to quote Butler herself:

... whether photographs still has the power to communicate the suffering of other in such a way that viewers might be prompted to alter their political assessment of war? (page 68)


How do the norms that govern which lives will be regarded as human enter into the frames through which discourse and visual representation proceed? (page 77)

As image maker I am interested both in the making of an image and in its framing. 

Butler uses the images of torture from Abu Ghraib, to explore these ideas. If you are not familiar with these images and the media story associated with them please look them up."


  • Butler, Judith. "Torture and the Ethics of Photography: Thinking with Sontag."Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? London: Verso, 2009. 63-100. [Since it is all most 40 pages, if you want to skip some I would suggest focusing on pages: 63-74 and 91-100.]