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Images of an Intervention: A semiotic study of the Swedish Armed Forces' depiction of its military involvement in Afghanistan
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Media Studies, JMK.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The increasingly universal information society has required also the Swedish Armed Forces to participate in the information flow, for example by publishing images from its operations in an open digital image archive. With use of the image archive’s photographs from the Swedish Armed Forces’ military operations in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012, the study seeks to examine the way in which the Swedish army depicts its involvement in the region. From a postcolonial perspective, based on Edward Said’s notions on Orientalism, this semiotic analysis examines the image publications in order to reveal what messages the images convey. How are Afghan women respectively Afghan men depicted in contrast to Swedish soldiers? How are Swedish soldiers portrayed in relation to their Afghan military allies? Such are the questions at hand. The study makes use of a methodological framework based on Roland Barthes and Charles Saunders Pierce and looks to reveal the denotative and connotative meanings in the image material.

The result of the study shows a depiction of the military intervention in Afghanistan that largely portrays Afghan women and girls in need of saving and emancipation, while Swedish soldiers are ascribed the role of the hero. Moreover, images depicting Swedish soldiers as modern, powerful and progressive in contrast to weak and underdeveloped Afghan men are also recurrent in the material. The cooperation between the Swedish military and its Afghan allies is throughout the material depicted in a positive manner, and symbolic gestures of friendship between the two frequent the image publications. At large, a positive perspective permeates the Swedish military’s depiction of its operations in Afghanistan, and its soldiers are portrayed as powerful bringers of Western liberty and equality. Meanwhile, the East is depicted as all that the West is not: uncivilised, weak and infantile. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 51 p.
Keyword [en]
Orientalism, semiotic, image analysis, Said, women in war, propaganda, euro-centrism, conflict, military, Sweden, Afghanistan
Keyword [sv]
Orientalism, semiotik, bildanalys, Said, kvinnor i krig, propaganda, euro-centrism, konflikt, militär, Sverige, Afghanistan
National Category
Media and Communications
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-133707OAI: diva2:968763
2016-08-31, Bangsalen, JMK., Karlavägen 104, Stockholm, 11:00 (English)
Available from: 2016-09-14 Created: 2016-09-12 Last updated: 2016-09-14Bibliographically approved

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