Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 September 2021
Chapter 2 describes the theoretical approach to the concept of obscenity by examining what counts as “horrifically graphic,” a term drawn from the coverage of American soldiers burning dead bodies in Fallujah, Iraq, and the release of these images by the entertainment website TMZ. Drawing on a variety of theorists, it uses the framing of the taboo to articulate the idea of an obscenity norm that functions towards a particular politics. It situates the contributions of this work more substantively in terms of how it speaks to constructivist work on norms, the growing literature on emotions in global politics, and the visual politics literature. Specifically, this chapters theorizes three main ideas related to the obscenity norm and its functioning: (1) the existence of the taboo itself as something that plays with our perception of whether images depict the real, (2) the functioning of regulations on images such as trigger warnings or image bans, and (3) the relationship between the obscenity norm and the larger dynamics of security and securitization.