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Research Group “Hate Pictures” - Use of Images and Aversive Emotions in the Visual Culture of the Political

The Research Group “Hate Pictures” was founded in Berlin in 2014 by four historians and one scholar of cultural and media studies. Combining approaches from the fields of Research on Anti-Semitism, National Socialism, Visual History and the History of Emotions, its objective lies in the investigation of “hate pictures” from the 19th to the 21st century. By “hate pictures” we mean still, popular images such as photographs, caricatures, posters or paintings which bear the potential to evoke aversive emotions such as hatred, fear, rage or disgust. The emergence of modern mass media has been notably shaped by the production, circulation and reception of visual artefacts. The great significance attributed to images originated, to some extent, from their capability to influence the emotional climates within European societies; a feature that has been particularly relevant to the formation and demarcation of national, religious and social groups. A modern Cultural History of the Political thus needs to go beyond the existing approaches from the fields of Research on Propaganda and Prejudice and attach greater importance to the connection between visuality and emotionality.

The Research Group “Hate Pictures” is an interdisciplinary research network which is looking to unite two significant and growing research areas – Visual History and the History of Emotions – in order to establish a new scientific discipline: A Visual History of Emotions. Our primary research question is concerned with the connection between visual representations and the genesis and evolution of collective and individual aversive emotions. Although anti-Semitic images and the phenomenon of anti-Semitism will here be the primary object of investigation, “hate pictures” originating from other forms of discrimination will deliberately be included in the analyses. It is the defined goal of our research group to provide a methodological-theoretical enhancement and reorientation of the existing research approaches concerning the role of images in processes of stereotyping, formation of prejudices and discrimination. In this context, a Visual History of Emotions can compensate for shortcomings in the field of (political) Visual History and its underlying paradigm of propaganda: instead of taking the effectivity of images and their influence on the emotional states of political groups for granted, a Visual History of Emotions aspires to analyze these phenomena.

Our group is conducting interdisciplinary, trans-medial and transnationally comparative research. We focus on three specific fields: first, the investigation of practices governing images and emotions, as well as collective and state practices governing the production, control and circulation of “hate pictures”; second, the study of discourses on visuality and emotionality, in which specific images are integrated, whereby it is of paramount interest to understand the appropriation of these images by different social groups and individuals, their circulation and proliferation and their adaption to differing regional, national, historical, cultural, political and social contexts; and third, the analysis of the associated patterns of emotional reception, synchronization and reaction.

To accomplish these objectives, our research group operates on a number of levels. First, the conceptional, theory-consolidating and coordinating work of the research group is promoted in regular meetings. Second, the individual members pursue independent research projects governed by the network’s guiding questions. Third, a number of associated research projects are conducted at different universities. These projects carry out intensified and specialized research on specific subject areas on an independent level, while at the same time being associated with the research group and contributing to its overall research ambitions.  Simultaneously, our research group aims to explore new or barely known sources and render them accessible to scientific research. As a result, exclusive access to one of the world’s largest and most significant holdings of anti-Semitic images has been established: Owing to a cooperation agreement between the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism and the Belgian Holocaust survivor and collector Arthur Langerman, the unique Langerman Collection serves as our principal body of source material and basis of research.


A series of interdisciplinary workshops is currently being planned. More information will follow soon.

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