The Iconography of a Nation: National Identity Construction in Palestinian Visual Representations

Mohammed Mosheer Abdel Aziz Amer


In the struggle for liberation and independence, imagery and visual representations are central to nationalist discourses and to national identity construction. Visual images of the nation become a revolutionary and mobilizing tool with the aim of rallying the nation behind a nationalist goal and shaping its collective identity. This paper aims to examine how Palestine is represented and imagined in various Palestinian visual representations including iconic images, posters and paintings. Based on Kress and van Leeuwen’s (2006) visual communication grammar, this social semiotic study analyzes a number of images and posters produced by Palestinian artists in order to look into the constituent elements of Palestinian national identity and the ‘homeland’ as visually imagined in Palestinian visual discourse. The study shows that conditions of exile, dispossession and national struggle have been predominantly mapped onto Palestinian visual representations which are continually used to advance a grand national narrative and to assimilate individuals into an imagined community by stressing collective national themes. More social semiotic research should be devoted to the analysis of imagery and visual representations as they occupy a central place in the processes of constructing and asserting national identity and memory.

الكلمات المفتاحية

visual representations – social semiotics – Palestinian imagery – visual grammar – national identity

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