1st Edition

Law, Visual Culture, and the Show Trial

By Agata Fijalkowski Copyright 2024
    198 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Addressing the relationship between law and the visual, this book examines the importance of photography in Central, East, and Southeast European show trials.

    The dispensation of justice during communist rule in Albania, East Germany, and Poland was reliant on legal propaganda, making the visual a fundamental part of the legitimacy of the law. Analysing photographs of trials, this book examines how this message was conveyed to audiences watching and participating in the spectacle of show trials. The book traces how this use of the visual was exported from the Soviet Union and imposed upon its satellite states in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. It shows how the legal actors and political authorities embraced new photographic technologies to advance their legal propaganda and legal photography. Drawing on contemporary theoretical work in the area, the book then challenges straightforward accounts of the relationship between law and the visual, critically engaging entrenched legal historical narratives, in relation to three different protagonists, to offer the possibility of reclaiming and rewriting past accounts. As its analysis demonstrates, the power of images can also be subversive; and, as such, the cases it addresses contribute to the discourse on visual epistemology and open onto contemporary questions about law and its inherent performativity.

    This original and insightful engagement with the relationship between law and the visual will appeal to legal and cultural theorists, as well as those with more specific interests in Stalinism, and in Central, East, and Southeast European history.

    Introduction. 1 Stalinist Justice in Central and Eastern Europe. 2 Law, Visual Culture, and the Show Trial in Soviet Times. 3 Law, Visual Culture, and the Show Trial in Albania. 4 Law, Visual Culture, and the Show Trial in East Germany. 5 Law, Visual Culture, and the Show Trial in Poland. Conclusion.


    Agata Fijalkowski is Reader in Law at Leeds Beckett University, UK.

    "Legal photojournalism and legal photography can be indeed the lenses to see into and through much of the communist past because they provide a path where several disciplines successfully join, allowing for a more convincing and thought-provoking approach to what has been silenced, such as the brave intellectual Musine Kokalari’s story, and many other unknown Musines in Albania and in the Eastern Bloc. This book is a powerful reminder of how much we need to remember, revisit and question the past under communism in case we truly want to understand and eventually envision a future." Dr. Bavjola Shatro, Associate Professor, Aleksander Moisiu University, Albania.

    "Agata Fijalkowski provides a unique and exceptionally assiduously researched and referenced exploration of a number of show trials in post-World War II East Germany, Poland and Albania...The author emphasises the importance of photography in documenting contemporary images in portraying the ferocity of state imposition....Her book gives a truly fascinating and wide-ranging account of the relationship between the law and photography in authoritarian states." Dr Antonia Young, Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford and Research Associate in Sociology and Anthropology, Colgate University in New York.

    "Law, Visual Culture, and the Show Trial is a pioneering exploration of the cultural connections between photos publicising show trials and the longer aesthetic traditions they resonate with", Emeritus Prof Leslie Moran, Birkbeck Law School, University of London.

    "This fascinating and important book illuminates the relationship between photographic propaganda, show trials and the legitimacy of the law.  It encourages us to think about the visual in propaganda and its impact on political authoritarianism and the law.  In addition to making a valuable contribution to socio-legal studies and law and humanities, it should appeal to scholars across a wide range of disciplines", Prof. Emeritus David Sugarman, Lancaster University Law School; Senior Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London; Senior Associate, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford.

    "In an age in which echoes of the authoritarian and totalitarian past, both East and West, are increasing in volume and the past is rehabilitated the author’s insistent focus on the singular, subjectivity throughout Law Visual Culture, and the Show Trial is a quiet but consistently emancipatory political act." Dr David Seymour, The City Law School, City University of London.

    "Agata's book is a vital commentary about the way that images are used as 'window dressing' for a regime and presents provocative questions about how modern aspects of photography play a role in political authoriatanism", Dr Mara Malagodi, School of Law, University of Warwick.

    "This book represents a profound philosophical exploration of the intricate relationship between the promotion of injustice as justice and its connection to the concept of image." Mal Berisha, Former Ambassador of the Republic of Albania to the Court of St. James’s in London.