What’s Up in the World? - Weekly Digest 29/04/2016 Written by Harriet Lane-Tobin

Credit - Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

Credit - Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

Money, politics, culture, and Beyoncé. This week's digest deals with issues relating to the visual; how it personifies, exemplifies, obscures and shapes reality.

In the past week Beyoncé dropped her new visual album “Lemonade”  much to the delight of many (me included). However, something was different, it was a striking reminder of the importance, and power of when pop culture becomes political. Though not all shared the same response as me. I would like to start this week digest with a response, and critique of this Daily Mail article by Piers Morgan, journalist and television personality.  Morgan argues that pop stars should contain their concerns to performing and not informing. Here I would like to disagree. Shouldn’t those who already have a voice be able to use it too drive the change? Finally I see Beyoncé as not just a star, or a solider, but a visual anthropologist, using her album to tell stories of inequalities and injustice. 

But this is not to say visual representations are always fitting or empowering. Eve Livingston’s Guardian article contends with the issues of the current push to show more female historical figures on currency. Livingston argues that, “rather than improving the decor inside an already stuffed wallet, feminism should focus on fighting for material gains in the lives of the women who have comparatively little” (Livingston, 2016). Visuals here can only be powerful if paired with an alteration of the structural.

So where do these inequalities start? Thomas B. Edsall’s New York Times article argues it begins at the very geographical realities of those involved as well as their socio-economic status. Edsall states the “self-segregation of a privileged fifth of the population is changing the American social order and the American political system, creating a self-perpetuating class at the top, which is ever more difficult to break into” (Edsall 2016). Showing how the visual influences the structure and vice-versa, shaping the lives and experiences of those within them.

However issues and inequalities can be explored in what is unseen as much as what is seen. In Sabrina Sultana’s Huffington Post article, she details this in relation to the issue of ‘colourblindness’. Sultana argues there is in fact a problem as treating “people as people” as it prevents viable conversations about racial inequality to occur. That if we shift our visual perspective in such a way it can further issues rather than remedy them. “To see reality more fully, we need to be color- conscious, not color-blind" (Sultana, 2016).