Civil Imagination

Ariella Aïsha Azoulay


We send all orders via Royal Mail: within the UK, choose from 1st Class, 2nd Class or Special Delivery; for the rest of the world, International Standard or International Tracked. Delivery and packaging charges are calculated automatically at the checkout.

To collect orders in person from the Bookshop, choose Click and Collect at the checkout.

Verso Books
19 March 2024
ISBN: 9781804292594
304 pages

From the publisher

Translated by Louise Bethlehem


The photograph is not just an image but an event, one in the longer sequence of a photographic moment. Challenging given definitions of photography and of the political, Ariella Aïsha Azoulay calls for us to use photographs of political violence, such as the colonial regime in Palestine, to envision the political relationships that made each photograph possible, and to be able to intervene in them. In this way, we can build our capacity for “civil imagination”: a way of seeing and imagining ourselves as part of the image rather than only as spectators.

The new edition includes a discussion of the legal battles to reclaim the images of the enslaved Papa Renty, held by Harvard University, rejecting the regime of photographs as private property, established by institutions that claim ownership of images seized with violence.

“This trenchant, perennially contemporary book valorizes powerful intersubjective relations enabled by photography, relations that exceed the strictures of imperial power. For Azoulay, photography’s entangled temporalities enable a transformation of our sense of what persists, just as a collective practice of civil imagination reconstructs our apprehension of those with whom we unevenly share a lifeworld. Azoulay contradistinguishes spectatorship from the radical work of being a companion— a distinction that itself rewrites normative conceptions of the social work of seeing.” - Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa, author of Dark Mirrors