Death's Showcase

Death's Showcase

The Power of Image in Contemporary Democracy

By Ariella Azoulay

An interdisciplinary exploration of the visual presence of death in contemporary culture.





An interdisciplinary exploration of the visual presence of death in contemporary culture.

This is a book about the public display of death in contemporary culture. It consists of a series of essays on specific cases in which death is displayed in museums and in photography. The essays focus mainly on representations of violence and death in events in recent Israeli history, including the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestinian Intifada, and on the visual presence of traumatic events in Israeli culture throughout the twentieth century. They show how images of these events both shape and aestheticize the viewer's experience of death.

The book offers a new reading of the work of Walter Benjamin, particularly his essay 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.' Engaging the disciplinary perspectives of philosophy, art history, cultural studies, and photographic theory, the book also draws upon the work of such writers as Jean Baudrillard, Pierre Bourdieu, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, Jean-François Lyotard, and Jean-Luc Nancy.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262011822 314 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 45 illus.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262511339 314 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 45 illus.


  • ...nothing less than a wholesale restatement of the contemporary political stakes of the image...

    Art Review

  • The Civil Contract of Photography does not simply delineate how meaning is contained in or created through photograph; it demonstrates precisely how meaning avoids being cheated. If there is one lesson to take from Azoulay's writing, it is that photography is a profoundly political act—an act that is also, in the strictest sense, public.


  • The Civil Contract of Photography will likely be one of the most influential books to shape the contemporary inquiry of photography and public culture.

    Argumentation and Advocacy

  • A book of both profound and theoretical weight and immediate social resonance.


  • Azoulay has an eye for seeking engaging artwork and combining theoretical tools.

    Al Jadid


  • How the author could have come to understand the history of the interaction of computation and mathematics so thoroughly and accurately is utterly beyond me. Given the immense number of people involved in the research described, it is thoroughly amazing that someone has surveyed it all and put it together. And done it superbly.

    Robert Boyer

    Department of Computer Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin

  • The various parts of this work add up to a most valuable, comprehensive statement about the changing relations between art, culture, and power in contemporary democracy.

    Yaron Ezrahi

    Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

  • In this original and daring analysis of the politics of art, Azoulay shows how photography, the organization of public space, and the museum as an institution both conceal and reveal basic ideological commitments. Few accounts of the aftermath of the Holocaust or of Israel's recent strife-ridden history uncover as keenly as this work does the close ties to be found between political act and rhetorical representation.

    Berel Lang

    Professor of Humanities, Trinity College

  • Ariella Azoulay's Death's Showcase is critical discourse at its best: irreverent, politically charged, and yet scrupulously attentive to both specific artworks and the philosophical dimensions of the task of interpretation. We need to learn new ways of seeing, Azoulay insists in incisive analyses of contemporary art, photojournalism, philosophy, and interviews with military surveillance experts, because how we see our surroundings directly determines the politics of being—and the politics of non-being as well.

    Ulrich Baer

    Department of German, New York University, author of Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma

  • Zoom forward, track back. Death's Showcase is a fascinating unfolding of these simultaneous operations, whereby photographic, televisual, and museological spaces create an unbridgeable, permanently mourned distance from some auratic object as they draw us closer to things. Ariella Azoulay's is an exciting new voice on the critical scene, politically savvy, artistically astute, and smart on the whole range of issues surrounding the display of death in modern culture.

    Joan Copjec

    author of Imagine There's No Woman

  • This is an original and important book on a significant topic. Spectral Evidence is at once learned and critical, informative and imaginative, concrete in its own practice and theoretically sophisticated. It is clearly formulated even when addressing complex issues.

    Berel Lang

    Professor of Humanities, Trinity College

  • Azoulay's Book is a complex combination of cultural studies, visual culture analysis, and the study of Jewish and Israeli political culture. In each field, she offers a unique reading, unique in its freshness and its ability to turn accepted understandings upside down through brilliant insight informed by a vast knowledg in, and profound understanding of, a plethora of theories.

    Hannan Hever

    Department of Poetics and Comparative Literature, Tel Aviv University