Robert U. Nagel
Images of Peace? The Visual Politics of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations
In “Images of Peace? The Visual Politics of United Nations Peace Operations” I aim to provide the first comprehensive study of UN peace operations photographs and how the UN Department of Peace Operations (UN DPO) and individual missions use them. UN DPO and individual missions face two distinct communication challenges. First, they have multiple audiences, including local beneficiaries, local governments, donor countries, troop and police contributing countries, its own personnel, and regional partners. Second, they have to manage the tensions resulting from their multi-dimensional mandates. In “Images of Peace” I examine how the DPO and the missions manage these challenges and tensions through the promotion of visual representations of peacekeepers. I argue that leveraging gender stereotypes of women as ‘natural caregivers’ and their presumed and perceived peacefulness they use images of women peacekeepers to soften the image of UN peace operations and garner local and international goodwill. Additionally, they instrumentalize the suffering and subsequent ‘empowerment’ of local girls and women through the visual portrayal of ‘soft’ security measures to justify and legitimize the presence of peace operations. In the process, the UN DPO and the missions entrench racialized notions of the peacekept as well as essentialized forms of masculinity and femininity that impede an equal opportunity approach to peacekeeping.