Centre Researchers Explore Visual Narrative Analysis

New Publications from Frank Gadinger and Katja Freistein

Katja Freistein and Frank Gadinger, two of our Senior Researchers at the Centre, recently published two innovative contributions on their methodological tool of visual narrative analysis. In their research on the appeal of populist storytelling over the last years they demonstratehow the integration of images in political narratives can be analysed, for instance when studying phenomena in international politics such as self-representations by political leaders.Images are not studied in isolation, but in the broader context of political narratives through reconstructing different layers of communication (images, narratives, competing narratives). In a recently published article­ in 'Political Research Exchange', Katja and Frank analyse self-representations at a G7 Meeting in 2018 and explain some of the reasons why one image became iconic (Angela Merkel as female leader of the liberal world) and others (focussing on Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump) did not. As part of the book project of a 'Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory', Katja and Frank adopted visual narrative analysis to deconstruct Donald Trump as a 'Hollow Man' in his typical self-representations on social media. The approach can thus serve to criticise supposedly authentic communication practices by right-wing populists.

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.

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

The Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory

Book Description

The Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory brings together top scholars in the field to explore the significance of narrative to pressing social, cultural, and theoretical issues. How does narrative both inform and limit the way we think today? From conspiracy theories and social media movements to racial politics and climate change future scenarios, the reach is broad. This volume is distinctive for addressing the complicated relations between the interdisciplinary narrative turn in the academy and the contemporary boom of instrumental storytelling in the public sphere. The scholars collected here explore new theories of causality, experientiality, and fictionality; challenge normative modes of storytelling; and offer polemical accounts of narrative fiction, nonfiction, and video games. Drawing upon the latest research in areas from cognitive sciences to complexity theory, the volume provides an accessible entry point for those new to the myriad applications of narrative theory and a point of departure for new scholarship.

Freistein, Katja and Gadinger, Frank (2022). 'Deconstructing the ‘Hollow Man’: Visual Narrative Analysis and World Politics', in Dawson, Paul and Mäkelä, Daniela (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Narrative TheoryAbingdon, Oxon/New York, NY: Routledge.