The Politics of Sight: Revisiting Timothy Pachirat’s Every Twelve Seconds

The Politics of Sight: Revisiting Timothy Pachirat’s Every Twelve Seconds

By Jasmine English and Bernardo Zacka, MIT

In his ethnography of industrialized slaughter, Every Twelve Seconds, Timothy Pachirat coins a label to describe political interventions that use visibility as a catalyst for reform—the “politics of sight.” We argue that the politics of sight rests on three premises that are all mistaken or misspecified: (1) that exposing morally repugnant practices will make us see them, (2) that seeing such practices will stop us from acquiescing to them, and (3) that owning up to such practices is preferable to keeping them concealed. To develop our argument, we propose an alternative interpretation of Pachirat’s own ethnographic material informed by theories from social psychology—one that leads to a different critique of the politics of sight than the one Pachirat offers and to a different understanding of the conditions under which it can succeed. Methodologically, we seek to illustrate the value of reanalyzing interpretive research through close reading.

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