For the last decade or so, in the wake of the “visual turn,” more historians have been analyzing visual media in their research and in the classroom with their students. During the same period, historians have paid greater attention to hitherto marginalized groups. This effort has gained even greater force in recent years, as viewing and analyzing historical representations allows historians to paint a more colourful and complex picture of the past.
The ability to conduct a critical visual analysis is an essential skill for living in our media-filled world. It works against us as a whole when people accept without question the images they see in advertising, websites, films, television, and photographs, which seem to make particularly strong claims of objective representation because of what Roland Barthes calls “the reality effect.” Such an uncritical stance toward visual content can leave the consumer open to mis/disinformation which can affect their decision making.
The following images and texts that were published in issue #5.1 of Intersections is dedicated to showcasing the power of critical visual analysis. We have invited scholars to submit images, accompanied by short essays, explaining how a critical visual analysis of images of those on the margins can profoundly augment our understanding of the past, including those of indigenous histories.