Making a European People Visible: The Birth of Illustrated News in the 1840’s and Transnational Political Subjectivity
How “people” come to identify as part of “the people”, in the sense of those that have a legitimate say in political matters in society, is in many ways a central question of our time. It is also a question with historical roots that go back to the constitution of modern democratic societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This research project investigates the people as a political subject, through an analysis of how the illustrated news magazines established in several European countries during the 1840’s, contributed to new ways of imagining this collectivity. The study investigates both how these magazines pictured public gatherings of people as expressions of the popular will, and how readers were in different ways positioned as part of a collective with legitimate interests in the business of government. A central hypothesis is that the establishment of a market for visual news, for the first time made it possible for influential groups to (literally) see themselves as participating in the life of a transnational European people, which was important during the revolutions of 1848. The investigation will make original contributions to several research fields, not least by combining questions from political theory with media history. It will provide new perspectives on the history of the people as a political subject, but also contribute to discussions on mediated collectivity in a broader sense, as well as the development of pictorial news reporting.