Palestine in Visual Representation: A Visual Semiotic Analysis of the Nakba


Since its de facto creation, Israel has endeavoured to legitimize its existence and mystify the ethnic cleansing it perpetrated in 1948, systematically working to efface historic Palestine from the Arab and global public memory. Visual discourse plays a constitutive role in the construction and preservation of national themes. This paper, a critical discourse analysis of a corpus of visual representations, aimed to examine how visual representation serves to memorialize and reconstruct national themes, and so how this semiotic mode of representation can act as a form of counter-hegemonic discourse against attempts at the memoricide of the other and mystification of history. Using Kress and van Leeuwen’s (2006) grammar of visual design as a framework for visual analysis, this social semiotic research analyzed the visual structure of a number of Nakba images to examine the role of visual representations in the memorialization of key Palestinian national themes, and so the reconstruction and preservation of historic Palestine. The study shows how visually represented national themes, such as ethnic cleansing and Right of Return, serve as a constant reminder of the Nakba, stressing their sociopolitical and emancipatory role in shaping the Palestinian collective consciousness about their past, present and future. Exploration of further visual signs can reveal more the function of visual and multimodal communication in the preservation of important national themes and role in national liberation.


Aladdin Assaiqeli


images, visuals, multimodality, visual communication, visual grammar, CDA, Nakba