The aesthetic politics of NGOs

Authored by: Holly Eva Ryan

Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations

Print publication date:  April  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138285507
eBook ISBN: 9781315268927
Adobe ISBN:


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Over the last 15 years, an increasing number of scholars working within the field of international politics have been trespassing across disciplinary confines, blurring epistemic boundaries and experimenting fruitfully with alternative methodologies and ‘ways of knowing’ the social world. Among these interdisciplinary excursions, a burgeoning body of scholarship on ‘aesthetic politics’ warrants particular attention for its endeavour to redraw the lines between the artistic and the political by exploring new ways of thinking, seeing, hearing and sensing the world around us. Aesthetic politics is about much more than art, or indeed the institutions, power matrices and actors that make up the ‘art world’. It is also about the distinct types of engagement and understanding that are fostered by artistic practice, image-making and the ways that we can use these as a springboard for re-thinking or even re-imagining the order of things in international politics. With this in mind, the pages that follow offer a review of some of the distinguishing features of a so-called ‘aesthetic turn’ in international politics before offering some arguments as to how insights and lessons drawn from this body of scholarship can help us to critically analyse and engage with the work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and in particular, the ways that NGOs use and reproduce images.

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