The People Are Not an Image
Vernacular Video After the Arab Spring
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304 pages / September 2020 / 9781788733168
September 2020 / 9781788733199

A major intervention in media studies theorises the politics and aesthetics of internet video

The wave of uprisings and revolutions that swept the Middle East and North Africa between 2010 and 2012 were most vividly transmitted throughout the world not by television or even social media, but in short videos produced by the participants themselves and circulated anonymously on the internet.

In The People Are Not an Image, Snowdon explores this radical shift in revolutionary self-representation, showing that the political consequences of these videos cannot be located without reference to their aesthetic form. Looking at videos from Tunisia, Bahrain, Syria, Libya, and Egypt, Snowdon attends closely to the circumstances of both their production and circulation, drawing on a wide range of historical and theoretical material, to discover what they can tell us about the potential for revolution in our time and the possibilities of video as a genuinely decentralised and vernacular medium.


“Journalist, scholar, filmmaker, and maverick thinker, Peter Snowdon has written a fascinating and penetrating analysis of the Arab Spring’s 'vernacular videos' and their emancipatory function, offering illuminating insights that are likely to shake up cinema theory today much as these videos once cracked open the Arab world.”

“With The Uprising, a feature-length compilation of cell phone videos from the Arab revolutions, Peter Snowdon produced one of the great, if shamefully unknown, film works of the still young twenty-first Century. Revisiting his source material with admirable lucidity, the essays in The People Are Not an Image constitute a no less crucial and forward-looking work of cinematic exegesis. Together they represent a key development in the history of collective image-making.”

“The anonymous videos of the 2010-2012 Arab uprisings, as reframed by this powerful and graceful book, are not documents of past events but performances that continue to live as they circulate online. Snowdon honors the videos as aesthetically complex works that, in the manner of a spiritual devotion, bring into being a collective body—one that just might burst the state’s cruel grip.”

“Peter Snowdon has mapped out the topography of a hidden treasure, drawing our attention to the videos of Arab revolutions as what he calls the ‘vernacular anarchive’ of a momentous historic event otherwise withering away in the speed of post-truth amnesia. This is a revelatory book, indispensable for our understanding of what happened in the course of the Arab Revolutions when we were not paying proper attention.”

“Snowdon combines narratives of personal encounters, without which no tale of a revolution can be complete, with a sophisticated analysis of the ways of seeing a complex, fast moving reality, and contemporary critical analysis. Combining the experience of filmmaking and the everyday dialectics of rebellion during the Arab uprisings of 2011, this book should appeal to anyone interested in the relation between image and protest, street and screen, ordinary life and extraordinary mobilization, feeling of personhood and sense historical relevance, and subjectivity in times of revolution.”

“Throughout the book, Snowdon practices an ethics of close reading that rejects critical habits of regarding images with suspicion. The People Are Not an Image charts hopeful trajectories for several areas of inquiry, from the politics of protest media and self-representation to networked distribution, operational images, and the digital remaking of subjectivity. Yet Snowdon’s ultimate project is more ambitious—to reshape his readers’ political imaginaries”

“Peter Snowdon provides a radical philosophical approach to the daily videos produced by the ordinary people of the Arab spring.”

The People Are Not an Image has significance for scholars but will also find wider audience appeal with, for example, digital media activists, filmmakers, and human rights advocates. It will be especially relevant to digital media and communication scholars and students with an interest in activism, social movements, and visual politics.”

“This book makes a much-needed intervention in media studies in the Arab regions since 2011, and is a crucial read for all students of media and film studies.”

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