Performing leadership: international politics through the lens of visual narrative analysis



Since visuality in the (self-)representation of politicians and other influential figures has become an important part of political storytelling, we propose to use visual narrative analysis (VNA) as a systematic approach for its better understanding. VNA is particularly suited for this performative strand of interpretive analysis, as it does not study images in isolation but in the broader context of political narratives. By analysing different layers of communication (images, narratives, competing narratives) VNA enables us to identify internal contradictions that undermine political efforts of self-representation in contexts of global governance (e.g. multilateral diplomacy) and render them unstable and contestable. By analysing competing (self-)representations at a G7 meeting in 2018, we show how VNA can be applied fruitfully to the study of international politics and, second, how VNA can explain some of the reasons why one image became iconic (Angela Merkel as female leader of the liberal world), i.e. appealed to a wider audience, and others (focusing on Emmanuel Macron or Donald Trump) did not. While our article is primarily a demonstration of the methodological benefits of VNA for various research contexts in world politics, it also contributes to conceptual debates on the combination of visuality, narratives and emotions in changing practices of political storytelling.

To cite this article:

Katja Freistein & Frank Gadinger (2022) Performing leadership: international politics through the lens of visual narrative analysis, Political Research Exchange, 4:1, DOI: 10.1080/2474736X.2022.2124922
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Katja Freistein-Frank Gadinger