Signs of development: Photographic futurism and the politics of affect in Uganda

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This article contributes to recent scholarship on an emergent public political visual culture in Africa. Through an ethnographic study of political billboards and other government-sponsored public political imagery in Uganda, it argues that this new visual culture is primarily characterized by African states' extensive use of post-photographic techniques as a means for projecting fantastic visions of their future development goals. However, drawing on recent insights from the 'material turn' in visual theory, it finds that - in Uganda's case at least - the potency of these new public visual artefacts may stem less from what they show than from how they invoke in their citizen-viewers an embodied sense of future possibilities. Once generated, this affective response can be mobilized by the state and its agents in the 'here and now', for political gain. The article looks at how this worked in the run-up to Uganda's 2016 presidential elections, when, in the context of major new spending on national infrastructure projects, the images and artefacts of this new visual culture served to greatly amplify the sense that all citizens would benefit from an emergent global capitalism. This inflated aspiration was mobilized in turn by the National Resistance Movement government as an integral part of its election campaign, and played a key role in returning the government to power.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-322
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019

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