Global Injustice Symbols and Social Movements by Thomas Olesen (auth.)

By Thomas Olesen (auth.)

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Photographic documentation has a potential bearing on innocence in three ways. First, in flagranti photos or video capture an unjust act as it unfolds and thus provide evidence about the level and direction of aggression. This was the case, for example, in 1991 when a bystander with a video recorder documented disproportionally aggressive Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) behavior toward a suspect, Rodney King (Alexander and Jacobs, 1998: 34–38; Martin, 2005). The beating quickly acquired symbolic status as it was increasingly portrayed by media and political activists as a symbol of systematic and institutionalized racism in the LAPD (the photos from Abu Ghraib also belong in this category) (see also Greer and McLaughlin, 2010).

The theoretical and conceptual framework developed in the present chapter has emerged in a manner that reflects the grounded theory tradition (Glaser and Strauss, 1967)—that is, through empirical analysis. While the framework clearly draws on already existing theories and concepts, no whole or partial theory and conceptual vocabulary for injustice symbols are available in the sociological literature. The research process thus started with some rough theoretical and conceptual guides that were applied to a variety of empirical phenomena.

What this suggests is that the relationship between the local/national and global level is not a zero-sum game. Injustice symbols can be local, national, and global at the same time (see also chapter 6 for a critical discussion of this relationship). In the second trajectory, which we may label the circumvention pattern, the local/ national level is bypassed, with the event/situation feeding more or less directly into the global public sphere and acquiring symbolic status primarily at this level.

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