Strategic Communication and Deformative Transparency: Persuasion in Politics, Propaganda, and Public Health, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Strategic Communication and Deformative Transparency

Persuasion in Politics, Propaganda, and Public Health, 1st Edition

By Isaac Nahon-Serfaty


112 pages | 12 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2018-09-13
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This book examines deformative transparency and its different manifestations in political communication, propaganda and public health. The objective is to present the theoretical foundations of deformative transparency, as grotesque and esperpentic transparency, and illustrate the validity of such approach to understand the strategic and ethical implications of the proactive disclosure of the "shocking", "ugly" or "outside the norm". Four areas are discussed: political communication with particular focus on populist politicians as the deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, the campaign and presidency of Donald Trump, and the tenure in office of the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford; propaganda strategies of Islamist terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State’s escalation of the visually horrific; and public health campaigns that use "disturbing images" to promote public awareness and eventually influence behavioural change. This study on the transparently grotesque is part of a research program about the economy of emotions in public communication.


"This book illustrates commonly used discourses of extremists, radicals, and organizations advocating for difficult causes. Emergent communication technologies enhance the outrageous character of images and metaphorical expressions aimed to capture the imagination, attention, and interest of distracted and increasingly fragmented audiences. Dr. Nahon-Serfaty’s strong academic and professional authority adds legitimacy to this innovative scholarship." -Juan-Carlos Molleda, University of Florida, USA

Table of Contents


1. Grotesque transparency: theoretical and methodological foundations

1.1 The grotesque and the esperpento

1.2 Strategy and tactics

1.3 Transparency and opacity

1.4 The aquarium metaphor

1.5 The economy of the affects

1.6 Epistemological boundaries

1.7 Methodological notes

2. Alternate reflexivity: the politics of excesses

2.1 Between chaos and control

2.2 Disclosure and denunciation

2.3 Chávez’s affective transparency

2.4 Chávez as serpent-charmer

2.5 Trump and Ford: grotesque revelations

2.6 The aesthetics of spectacular politics

3. Sacralization and profanation in public communication

3.1 The return of the repressed

3.2 Beyond horror, values

3.3 Terror performance and reception

3.4 Mediations of the grotesque

3.5 Counter-strategy and anti-/de-radicalization

4. Public health, fragmentation and the legitimacy of the grotesque

4.1 Larger, bigger grotesque: fighting tobacco

4.2 Toscani’s touch: branding public health issues

4.3 Visually framing the excesses

4.4 From moral outrage to stigma normalization

5. Strategy, transparency, aesthetics and the ethics of the realistically grotesque

5.1 Revisiting strategy

5.2 Double-edge sword transparency

5.3 Grotesque aesthetics

5.4 The sacred and the ethics of the invisible

5.5 Beyond the human body

5.6 The future will be kitsch

Conclusion: change and atavism in grotesque transparency

About the Author

Isaac Nahon-Serfaty is Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Communication at the University of Ottawa, Canada

About the Series

Routledge Focus on Communication Studies

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Communication Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General