Transgressing Childhood and the Child’s Body

Using PROOF’s Child Soldiers documentary photography project, and Stacey Dooley’s documentary on the sexualisation of young girls in Japan, I suggest that the notion of childhood is a valuable reflection point within development geographies. This can be explored by analysing how the two documentary projects represent the transgression of childhood and the child’s body.

  • project entitled “Child Soldiers: Forced to be Cruel”
  • Consists of a hireable exhibition of 40 photographs by over 30 photographers, initially published as a book by Leora Kahn.
  • Photographs are predominantly portraits: ‘Their faces show the reality of lost childhood. The frivolity, joy, defiance, or rebellion of youth is replaced by the deadly seriousness of a gun-toting teenager’ (PROOF website).
  • PROOF describe themselves as a media platform for social justice, championing ‘visual storytelling for human rights and peacebuilding’ (PROOF website).As a collective, the PROOF project represents a shared vision of what is considered a transgression of childhood’s innate innocence and purity.
  • Some of the key locations where the exhibition has been shown (e.g. UN in New York City, modern art museums in Germany and Italy), in addition to the geography of their depicted subject matter (Central/West Asia, Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, South America), perhaps highlight a geographical/spatial disposition toward the particular notion of childhood and the child’s body as innocent, pure, vulnerable, and in need of protection and preservation. It largely maps onto the broad (and terminologically conflicting) dichotomy of “First” and “Third” Worlds.
  • Arguably, this suggests that the idealised notion of childhood is one believed to be endangered by the instability of less socioeconomically development nations. The fact that the project visually prioritises depicting the tortured face and body of the child – with little/vague contextualisation of the social/economic/political environments through which conflict manifests – diminishes the capacity of viewers to understand the lost childhood of child soldiers in terms of its conflict/country specificities. Consequently, the transgression of childhood in this way becomes a generally “Third World” problem, and the recovery of childhood and rehabilitation of the child’s body a symbol of “First World” humanitarianism.
  • Using a second case study – Stacey Dooley’s 2016 Documentary: Young Sex for Sale in Japan – consolidates this analysis: part of the “shock factor” which Dooley mentions throughout the documentary is the fact that Japan is a ‘developed nation’, politically and economically. It is, therefore, disturbing to Dooley and her viewers (as perceived through media responses to the airing of her documentary) that Japanese culture could be rife with the sexualisation of children/young females, since this perversion of childhood and the child’s body is perceived as an issue of “less developed” societies.

Academic Summary (in lieu of abstract) – Reuben Hamlyn – Vision B

Hi All,

Sorry this has been so long coming. After initially my initial access, neither the password provided by the blog nor my password for other king’s apps granted me access. I had been waiting on a response since our meeting two weeks ago.

Anyway, as I am yet to complete my Translation Across Disciplines Coursework, here is a summary of my academic interests and involvements.

I major in English Lit although I consider Film, which I will minor in, as my guiding passion. Unless forced to, I rarely read literary texts from before mid 19th C and would say if I specialised in any literary medium, it would be the 20th C short story. I keep up to date with movements in contemporary fiction, particular short fiction. My interest in film is expansive but somewhat diffuse due to the broad range of styles and movements encompassed. Although my studies have been grounded in fiction cinema, I have researched contemporary experimental documentary which I believe could be of use to this project. I also have an interest in theory: psychological (Freudian and Lacanian), philosophical (“continental,” speculative, and philosophy of history/history of ideas), and finally I have studied/am studying media and culture theory.

Reuben Hamlyn

Vision A – Vietnam War – Preliminary research – Film Studies


Dear All,

I’m super happy that we’ve chosen a topic – the Vietnam War (1955-1975). In this post, I include some notes from my preliminary research from Film Studies. I thought these may be useful to you, as some of you would like to include film as your ‘data/material’ as part of the discussion; and it may help us to narrow down our research scope too.

There are more than 400 films produced around the Vietnam War: some films only use the was as a wide social backdrop, some films engage more directly with the war, discussing it’s rationals, representing the warfare itself, or reflecting on the implications of the war. While it is impossible to survey all of the films, I analysed some 126 films (features and documentaries) from the list of Vietnam War Film on Wikipedia, listing on IMDB, as well as a list provided by the British Film Institute. I have not seen many of these films myself, but the following data analysis will give us a better overview of the war in film representations.

1. By country of film production:Untitled

The majority of the films (feature and documentary films) are produced in the USA (97 films) , with The Republic of Vietnam (7 films), South Vietnam (2 films), Canada (5 films), the UK (5 films) and Hong Kong (4 films), and South Korea (3 films).

Please let us be aware that countries have film industry of different scales (both production and consumption), the statistics do not include smaller scale productions (short films and videos). For example, 7 feature film productions may constitute a major part of film production of Vietnamese film industry, whereas 97 feature films in the US film industry is still a very small percentage (therefore it may not be fair to say, for example, the film representation of the war is US-centric). Further, the resources I have gathered are generally in the English language (Resources such as wikipedia is arguably more frequently used by English language speakers, with less attention given to perspectives of non-English material). So my analysis is just a very rough calculation, so to speak.

2. By year of film production:Untitled

It may be particularly helpful to look at the years in which a large amount of Vietnam War films were produced. This may be a result that the filmmakers/film studios/government want to reflect on other issues, such as expressing anti-war message, advocating nationalism, or to comment on other warfare that the country was facing. There may be a delay in film representation, as it takes time from getting a film production to film exhibition. There are a lot of films produced in the year 1990 – could it be something happened in the late 80s that triggered this ‘wave’ of films?

3. By theme of film production
From a quick analysis on the keywords in the synopsis, war veterans are the most often filmed subject. In the 126 films in my analysis, there are 19 films’ leading characters are war veterans, with a few films covers recruitment, foreign soldiers in the war, refugees as the following most popular themes. Some films also represent the war through stories of military doctors and nurses. It would be also very interesting, if we look at how the themes have changed from before the war, during the war, to after the war.

Having looked at the above information, I find it would be very interesting to discuss the film representation in genre studies – War film as a genre (the Vietnam War films as a sub-genre). Although there is no strict definition of film genre, genre is sort of an ‘agreement’ between the filmmaker and the audience. For example, there is a consensus on what an action film should include and the style (fast-paced editing, music, fight choreography etc).

Regardless if the filmmakers had coded the messages in their films, the genre films often reflect social attitudes and values of the society. There are some scholars compare genre films to ‘ritualized drama’ – they reaffirm values in a predictable way (Bordwell, 2013:336). Such ‘ritualised drama’ may also help us to shift our attention from the ‘more disturbing aspects of the world’, to ‘the familiar characters and plots of genres way also serve to distract the audience from reality social problems. (ibid)’. I’m aware that it is oversimplified here a little, but it may be helpful to look at the film in relation to such a collective ‘vision’.


In our discussion this afternoon (Penny, Li and me), we thought it may be a good way to narrow down our discussion to one or two films. Then discussion issues raised through the films. For example, The Cultural Representation Of The Vietnam War: Apocalypse Now. Then to perform an interdisciplinary studies on this film. It would be much more focused topic for our 20 minutes presentation. Let me know what you think.

For me, I can always talk about the film: in relation to other Vietnam War films, how the ‘vision’ set up for us as an audience – what we see (lighting, colour, composition) in relation to the context of production and distribution.

We perhaps should look at other films to find some films particularly suitable for our discussion.

Link to the 126 films I included in my data analysis: click here 


(underlined parts are those we expressed an particular interest in previous discussion)

Auster, Albert, and Leonard Quart. How the war was remembered: Hollywood & Vietnam. Praeger Publishers, 1988.

Rasmussen, Karen, and Sharon D. Downey. “Dialectical disorientation in Vietnam War films: Subversion of the mythology of war.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 77, no. 2 (1991): 176-195.

Sturken, Marita. Tangled memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS epidemic, and the politics of remembering. Univ of California Press, 1997.

Jeffords, Susan. The remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam war.  Vol. 10. Indiana University Press, 1989.

Rowe, John Carlos, and Rick Berg, eds. The Vietnam War and American Culture. Columbia University Press, 1991.

Devine, Jeremy M. Vietnam at 24 frames a second: A critical and thematic analysis of over 400 films about the Vietnam War. University of Texas Press, 1999.

Lanning, Michael Lee. Vietnam at the Movies. Fawcett Books, 1994.

Malo, Jean-Jacques, and Tony Williams. “Vietnam war films.” Jefferson: McFarland & Company (1994).

Dittmar, Linda, and Gene Michaud. From Hanoi to Hollywood: The Vietnam War in American Film. Rutgers University Press, 1990.

Adair, Gilbert. Hollywood’s Vietnam. William Heinemann, 1989.

Wetta, Frank Joseph, and Martin A. Novelli. “” Now a major motion picture”: War films and Hollywood’s new patriotism.” The Journal of Military History 67, no. 3 (2003): 861-882.




Wikipedia’s list of Vietnam War films: click here

IMDB Top 30 Realistic Vietnam War Movies: click here

British Film Institute’s 10 Great Vietnam War Films: click here

Vision A Meeting Notes: 10/02/2017

In an attempt to finalise our choice of subject matter, during the first half of the meeting, each member of the group pitched a topic which was subsequently graded by his or her peers. The topics up for discussion were as follows;

The Holocaust (1933-1945)

The Vietnam War (1955-1975)

The  Assassination of John F. Kennedy (1963)

New York City transit strike (1980)

The Fall of the Berlin Wall (1989)

Hurricane Katrina (2005)

Female Vision in the Financial Crisis (2008)

Germany-Turkey relations following proposed EU deal (Ongoing)

After briefly discussing the merits of each topic in relation to the overall theme of ‘vision’, suggesting how research could be spread out across different disciplines, the group narrowed its selections down to; ‘The Vietnam War’ and ‘The Fall of the Berlin Wall’.

During the second half of the meeting, we convened with our module supervisor, Rosa. In an attempt to formulate a research question, we discussed several potential data sources related to our suggested topics. Due to a broader knowledge of sources on the subject, without cementing it as our final research choice, we focused mainly on notions of vision concerning the Vietnam War.


-As a means of utilising skills learned in both my major and minor disciplines  (Comparative Literature and Film Studies) I suggested using Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979) as a primary text. I felt an analysis of the film in relation to its source material, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, would allow for an interesting reflection upon the parallels between British and American Imperialism across centuries.

-Also mentioned, was the work of Chinese and Cuban artists such as Felix Rene Mederos Pazos (Link available here: who created Communist propaganda in solidarity with the Vietcong. This was mentioned specifically as a means of providing a non-western perspective.

-Folk music and protest songs, which provided a soundtrack to the anti-war movement across the US, ultimately shaping a large part of 60s counterculture.

-Photojournalism and television news reports were discussed. We were interested in the idea of Vietnam as the first on-screen war, and how the medium of television changed public perceptions of US foreign policy.


Representations of Child’s Body – Fine Art and Advertising

Following on from our meetings here is a quick overview of the works I have been researching.

Initially, I was reminded of the following article: Fae Brauer (2009) ‘Moral Girls’ and ‘Filles Fatales’: The Fetishisation of Innocence, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, 10:1, 123-143, DOI: 10.1080/14434318.2009.11432605. In this piece, Fae Brauer compares and contrasts contemporary reactions to Paul Chabas’ painting September Morn (1912) with Bill Henson’s untitled 2008 photographs of a thirteen-year-old girl referred to only as ‘N.’ Both elicited contemporary controversy, but today, the Chabas painting is more widely accepted as ‘art’ than Henson’s work, which continues to be described as pornographic. In her essay, Brauer utilises psychoanalytical theories and formal analysis to make the argument that the Chabas piece, in fact, titillates far more than Henson’s work.


Bill Henson, Untitled, 2008

Bill Henson, Untitled, 2008


Paul Chabas, September Morn, 1912

Paul Chabas, September Morn, 1912

Discussing this text with my group, advertising was mentioned as an area that frequently eroticises young girls’ bodies, and we briefly discussed American Apparel’s stills adverts which frequently use models who appear underage.


This drew me to a number of other adverts including Calvin Klein’s infamous 1981 Brooke Shields ad. Shields was 15 at the time of the advert, in which she poses wearing Calvin Klein jeans with her legs spread wide, with the tagline “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

I was also reminded of the controversial shoot in French Vogue magazine featuring the then 10-year-old model Thylane Blondeau, which sparked much discussion regarding whether these images sexualise her or not. Some critics claim that these images of Blondeau are in fact a satirical jab at the fashion industry’s penchant for eroticising increasingly younger bodies, whilst others state that these photographs fall into line with the very images that they purport to criticise. See here for an overview of debates in the public sphere:

Thylane Blondeau Vogue

Sharif Hamza, ‘Cadeaux’ in Vogue Magazine Paris, 2011

These are just a few ideas of things I am interested in researching further. Perhaps the photographs of Thylane Blondeau offer the most room for debate, in the way that they are purportedly satirical, yet are published in a magazine that sells lifestyle and fashion. I feel there is room to apply psychoanalytic frameworks discussed by Brauer in her essay discussing Chabas and Henson’s work, exploring the likes of gaze and scopohilia, as well as to measure contemporary reactions in the press and on social media.


Representations of the child’s body- 2 examples

This is just a follow up to our meeting with Rosa and our last meeting together where we agreed on focusing on the body of the child, so here are the two examples I researched a bit.

Grave of the Fireflies:

To sum up the film briefly, it’s a Japanese animation film from 1988, adapted from a short story, which shows a sister and brother (about 14 and 5 years old) towards the end of World War II as the US is dropping fire bombs. Their mother dies in one of the raids and they struggle to survive on their own but eventually the little sister starves to death and the young boy dies later. The film is made in a very picturesque watercolour like graphic style despite its grim storyline and it often shows the children, especially the little girl Setsuko, in scenes of play which contribute to the audience’s attachment to the characters.

Interesting changes have been made from the autobiographical experience of the author who wrote the story as an apology to his little sister, feeling responsible for her death. He explains that the character of the young boy, Seita, is much more kind than he was and that in reality the hunger and exhaustion led him to become abusive to her. Despite feeling guily, he often ate her share of food and hit her when she couldn’t stop crying. Even though some viewers still blame Seita for not having done enough in the film version, he is a  dedicated care-taker and having him die in the story as well portrays him as a child victim of war, like his little sister.

I found several articles which looked into the question of victimhood which I thought was the most interesting in relation to the children here (Stahl, David C., and Mark Williams. “Victimization and “Response-ability”: Remembering, Representing, and Working Through Trauma in Grave of the Fireflies, ‘Transcending the Victim’s History: Takahata Isao’s Grave of the Fireflies’ by Wendy Goldberg). They analyzed how the (non)involvment of the children in the conflict builds this image of victimhood and relates to the Japanese national narrative of victimhood. It’s interesting to reflect on especially Western audiences’ sympathy to the film and the characters (whose father fights in the army) considering that Japan stills stands as the enemy in that war. Japanese war crimes have not been forgiven and arguably nor has Japan apologised for them satisfactorily, and I found this article amongst others to illustrate this view:

There are lots of questions to investigate here: are the two children portrayed as ‘pure’ victims on the same level in the film ? Does Seita’s agency (in contrast to Setsuko) and the fact that he sides clearly in the war (by defending his father) make a difference ? In other words, is Seita purely innocent ? How does their age and the childish behaviour relate to the audience’s empathy towards them and balance out with  how Japan’s actions during World War II were/ are perceived ?

Henry Darger‘s work

The self-taught recluse Henry Darger has boomed to fame in the 90s and 2000’s after his work was found by his landlord after his death as they came to clean out the room. Since then he has been called a major figure of outsider art and is exhibited in prestigious museums in the US and Europe; the American Folk Art museum has even opened a Darger section and he was the subject of a documentary in 2004.

The giant amount of work that he produced however is highly controversial and has raised concerns about Darger’s mental health and the innocence of his depiction of children. What Darger named ‘The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion’ narrates the struggle of seven little girls mostly against adults who capture and torture them in bleak visual scenes. These children are the image of purity: white Christian little girls with angelic faces copied straight out of picture books. This article from the Huffington Post sums up pretty well the controversy around the artist and his sucess The question of purity is what troubles the viewer :

‘Upon first glance, Darger’s artwork appears whimsical, virtuous, even sweet, with cartoonish young girls sprinkled across pastel-tinted landscapes populated by butterflies, flowers and puffy clouds. Yet it’s this very bounty of innocence and sentimentality that makes the twisted works all the more horrific. The graphic details of Darger’s writing are explicated without reservation — all the torture and pain laid bare on the page — to make it all worse, in candied colors. To add an additional layer of strangeness, Darger often depicts his little girls naked, and often with penises’

The suspicions around Darger’s obsessive copying and drawing of little girls’ bodies (with boy’s genitals) did not prevent his popularity in contemporary art circles and we can question how it has perhaps participated in it. In any case the reception of his works and its showcasing in important institutions internationally as a ‘postmodernist’ and somehow avant-garde belonging to the tradition of Art brut makes me wonder : are mental illness and disturbing images being capitalized as a trend in contemporary art  ?




Vision A Meeting Notes: 27/01/2017

In our first meeting together we discussed the way in which our essays linked to the topic of Vision

  • From a historical disciplinary perspective, we discussed how physical sight is used as a medium to gain knowledge.Using Fidel Castro as an example, Penny demonstrated that visual sources were important as Castro manipulated the construction of his own image using his own personal photographers.
  • From a film studies disciplinary perspective, Cilin discussed that a documentary doesn’t necessarily evoke ‘truth’, using an early documentary on the Canadian Arctic as an example. He focused on the relationship between the director and the viewer and how essentially the viewer’s knowledge was manipulated:through the eyes of the director,through the Gaze(popularized by Lacan) and the reception of the audience.
  • From a geographical disciplinary perspective, we discussed the way the problematic nature of varied visions in geographical research. Gabi argued  that knowledge regarded as ‘truthful’ can be manipulated through her investigation into the methodology of fisheries research, the influence of prejudice on this research andhow political funding can shape the ‘sustainability’ of research.
  • From a political disciplinary perspective, we discussed again the visual representation of the ‘strong political figure’. Li focused on the image of Gadaffi, the former president of Libya during the Arab Spring. She expressed the importance of the media and how it constructed various perspectives.
  • From a comparative literature disciplinary perspective, Ben explored the how the alternate vision has changed through comparing, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” to Kendrick Lamar’s album “To Pimp a Butterfly”.

We then discussed various topics for the research question:

  • The general idea of manipulating knowledge  through visual means was put to the table depicted through:
    • Hypernormalisation – An Adam Curtis BBC Documentary that focuses on how varying institutions have built up a ‘vision’ of a fake world from the 1970s to the present day.[]
    • Mock-u-mentaries
    • By Paul Greengrass
    • Misinformation
  • Discussing the inter-related nature of our essays, we found that the ‘male political figure’ was prominent, which made us question: why? & how?
    • For example, why had we excluded the female vision from our research?
  • We wanted to focus on a particular social event that would incorporate all of our disciplines and also span enough time so that we could get sufficient sources/ data for our research project.
    • Hurricane Katrina
    • 9/11

We have started an email chain, and we are working out possible research topics through sending in suggestions by the 03/02/2017. We will work out 3 areas per person, and then narrow down our question to 2 topics. Cilin attached a helpful timeline for the project.

Meeting Notes: Monday 23rd Jan

Some of the broad ideas discussed during our meeting on Monday 23rd January with Rosa:

  • Forms of representation; multimedia
  • The politics and ethics of representation
    • depicting poverty: films such as Renzo Marten’s Enjoy Poverty (suggested by Reuben) and Glawogger’s Megacities – see Pernelle’s post here)
  • Invisibility:
    • The dichotomy of vision and blindness
    • Invisible sensations/experiences made visible
  • Visualising trauma
  • The strengths/weaknesses/limitations of different forms of representation, and our disciplines’ approaches to them
  • (in)visibility and representation of different ethnic groups/communities (suggested by Ryushi)

Focus for next meeting will be to choose a topic and discuss potential case studies.

A socially sustainable vision: Analysing different perceptions of the local stakeholders’ degree of participation in fisheries research Newfoundland, Canada

Inherent in geographical research today is a fascination with the term ‘sustainability’. The ‘UN Brundtland Commission report’ underlined that ‘Sustainability is a simple concept’ and defined sustainable development as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. The definition breeds positivity and optimism, and perhaps this is the reason why this sweeping term is used frequently in research today, because of the term’s indistinct goal….With this in mind, I will address the topic of establishing a sustainable vision in research which encompasses the ethical requirements that are essential when conducting research.

The cod population was close to extinction in 1992 in Newfoundland and had been linked to ‘over-fishing ( both domestic and foreign), federal mismanagement […] and over-capacity in the harvesting and processing sectors. Moreover, perception borne out of this crisis was that science was ‘not the solution but pat of the problem’. Investigating local people’s involvement within fisheries research in Newfoundland since 1977 to the present day is one way to trace how research is evolving in this respect. This essay does not assert that local knowledge equates to useful knowledge, but it investigates how local knowledge aids social cohesion in fisheries research…

Derek Keats'Beauty, bounty and tragedy of the Newfoundland fishery'

Derek Keats: Beauty, bounty and tragedy of the Newfoundland fishery

How does visualising disease help us understand communities affected by environmental catastrophe?

How does visualising disease help us understand communities affected by environmental catastrophe?

My essay takes as a starting point Rob Nixon’s innovative notion of “slow violence” – the destruction and devastation caused by long-term environmental calamities – to investigate the forms and impacts of visualising illness. The Japanese town of Minamata, and its namesake’s illness Minamata Disease, is explored as a case study through the ways in which the inherently invisible phenomenon of methylmercury poisoning has been made visible. In addition to reviewing photographic journalism, film, and literature, I propose a reading of the built environment through the symbols of its (re)construction– specifically, how we might observe a narrative of transformation in Minamata from thriving fishing town to disease memorial. Furthermore, I consider the consequences of desiring to make a spectacle of illness, examining critiques of Minamata’s “disease tourism” and the controversy of W. Eugene Smith’s documentary photograph Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath. The methods I shall use, such as this “reading” of Minamata’s changing environment, intends to reflect on the interdisciplinary approaches enriching geographical inquiry that I argue are imperative for the catastrophic slowness of environmental poisoning to be rendered and understood.


– Suhaylah