The Paradox of Representation and the Problem with Recognition: What Does it Mean to be Visible?

Laura Dixon, Jennifer Peachey


In many contexts, political and social representation is equated with having been made visible and recognition conflated with having been seen. Peoples attempts to express or define themselves in socio-cultural and legal processes hinge upon making themselves visible as they seek recognition from those who dominate them. Such claims often have to be made within a model of vision and visibility that is beyond a persons control. Excluded from the possibility of rendering oneself visible in the manner in which one wishes, a person may paradoxically be coercively included in a given paradigm through an over-determination of representation. That is, in order to be visible and socially legible, people are forced to appear as stereotypes or socio-cultural categories which they do not feel truly represent them and so confers a false political recognition. We seek to explore the emotional and experiential implications of being simultaneously excluded and included from a cultural, social or legal framework. Some of the questions that we seek to address in this issue are: How can we challenge assumptions of what vision is and does in political and academic notions of representation and recognition? What are the experiential and emotional dimensions of simultaneously being excluded from and included in modes of representation? How can academics work with other professionals in contesting representational politics and the construction of subjectivity this implies?

In this special edition of Anthropology Matters, Contributors utilise the juxtaposition of photographs and text, words and drawings to explore these questions. In so doing, they shed light on the issues that arise when processes of representation and recognition become irrevocably entwined with notions of visibility.


visibility;recognition; representation

Full Text:


Anthropology Matters Journal ISSN: 17586453 Publisher: Anthropology Matters url: