Pictorial Rationalities and why they matter in our struggles for identity and community

Andrews, Jorella G.. 2022. Pictorial Rationalities and why they matter in our struggles for identity and community. In: Helen Fielding and Mariana Ortega, eds. Life in Art—Phenomenological Approaches to Aesthetics and World-Making. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. [Book Section] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

In this chapter I show how and why pictorial rationality (a notion derived from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s 1954-55 lecture ‘The Institution of a Work of Art’ and pluralised in my own writing) is strategically significant when navigating identity, community, and difference in contexts of transcultural violence and socio-political struggle – however counter-intuitive this may sound given that such problematics are so often triggered by visual cues. In making my argument, I combine an exegesis of Merleau-Ponty’s ideas with an image-based approach, in which insights drawn from two works of art play a key role. The first image is the Jamaican-born, British photographer Neil Kenlock’s ‘Keep Britain White’ graffiti, Balham (1972) and the second is Chinese artist Yang Xinguang’s installation Thin, of 2009, in which the discarded branches of pruned fruit trees are violently transfigured and arranged within the gallery space to resemble a disjointed ‘community’ of bleached bone-like entities. This leads to an intercorporeal, non-ego-centric or non-self-seeking understanding of identity in which questions of how we are in the world are presented as just as crucial as questions of self-definition and demographics – indeed, more so. In this regard, I bring phenomenological into conversation with virtue ethics. Here, too experiences of loss must inevitably be experienced, examined and re-negotiated.

Item Type:

Book Section


identity, community, difference, phenomenology, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, virtue ethics

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


3 September 2022Submitted
21 November 2022Accepted

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

11 Jan 2019 09:22

Last Modified:

22 Jun 2023 03:53



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