Captured by the camera's eye: Guantánamo and the shifting frame of the Global War on Terror

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In January 2002, images of the detention of prisoners held at US Naval StationGuantanamo Bay as part of the Global War on Terrorism were released by the US Department of Defense, a public relations move that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeldlater referred to as ‘probably unfortunate’. These images, widely reproduced in the media,quickly came to symbolise the facility and the practices at work there. Nine years on, theimages of orange-clad ‘detainees’ – the ‘orange series’ – remain a powerful symbol of USmilitary practices and play a significant role in the resistance to the site. However, as thesite has evolved, so too has its visual representation. Official images of these new facilitiesnot only document this evolution but work to constitute, through a careful (re)framing(literal and figurative), a new (re)presentation of the site, and therefore the identities of thoseinvolved. The new series of images not only (re)inscribes the identities of detainees asdangerous but, more importantly, work to constitute the US State as humane and modern.These images are part of a broader effort by the US administration to resituate its image,and remind us, as IR scholars, to look at the diverse set of practices (beyond simply spokenlanguage) to understand the complexity of international politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1721–1749
Number of pages29
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number4
Early online date29 Nov 2010
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


  • counterterrorism
  • photography
  • Guantanamo
  • detention
  • US military
  • frame theory
  • Butler
  • war on terror

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