Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Tukufu Zuberi


In order to be heard or seen, nonviolent social movements (NVSMs) require an audience. News images of nonviolent protests become the means through which awareness of social movements is created. Comparative historical and semiotic analysis of journalistic images demonstrates that violence is a prominent theme within news coverage of nonviolent struggles. Four types of violence within nonviolence are identified: state violence, third-party violence, self-inflicted violence and symbolic violence. The examination of news images of these four types of violence showed the different ways in which challengers and the state contest power in the public domain through the media, in both text and images. Various actors (the state, social movements, journalists, the audience) use news images to historicize and construct their narratives of unfolding events, as well as make transhistorical claims. In this process, they deliberately employ news images to advocate for their causes, align themselves with previous heroes of civil disobedience and play on the popular understandings of good and evil. While this project focuses on different types of media, they have affected their audiences in similar ways, providing the space not only to the state within which they emerged, but also to those who seek to reform the state, like all of the movements in this study did. The media are the environment within which images circulate and as such they influence who images reach and, to a lesser extent, what effect they may have on the viewers. The power of images lies in both their universality that connects them with their genealogical predecessors and their singularity that underscores the specific conditions in which they emerge, making the ultimate outcome of the protests uncertain. The dissertation contributes to the research on social movements, mass communication, conflict and social change. It also raises the question of how images can be analyzed and incorporated into sociological research.

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Sociology Commons