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Christian Suhr

The Failed Image and the Possessed: examples of invisibility in visual anthropology and Islam

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This article asks if the recurrent queries regarding the value of images in visual anthropology could find new answers by exploring responses to visual media in neo-orthodox Islam. It proposes that the visual display of the photographic image shares a curious resemblance to the bodies of people possessed by invisible spirits called jinn. The image as a failed example or model of reality works like the possessed body as an amplifier of invisibility pointing towards that which cannot be seen, depicted visually, or represented in writing. This suggests a negative epistemology in which images obtain their value not from the adequacy of their correspondence to perceived reality but rather for the ways they fail to exemplify that which they appear to depict.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
IssueSpecial Issue 1
Pages (from-to)96-112
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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