Caricatures of Violence

Methodological Challenges

As I examined the journal and began collecting data, several methodological issues and challenges presented themselves. Many of the questions I asked about these images were about the presence or absence of certain visual elements. Thus, they were coded on a binary. The characteristic in question was either marked as present in the image or it was not. This approach became specifically problematic for the collection of data on the presence of women in images. Scholars have long understood gender as a socioculturally constructed category that is much more complex than a male-female binary (Launius and Hassel). While I support this theory, I approached this project with the assumption Philipon and his fellow caricaturists subscribed to traditional notions of gender as a binary category. As I note elsewhere, many of the figures depicted in La Caricature were coded as clearly feminine or clearly masculine. However, some images revealed the flaw in my coding scheme.

Plate 255 (above) shows a figure with Louis-Philippe’s hair and Marianne’s clothing running through the mud. It appears that the king has disguised himself as Marianne, the allegorical figure of the French Republic, but I hesitated to code the figure as a man. Typically, clothing was the main indicator I looked at to determine the gender of a figure. I do not believe that Philipon was questioning gender presentation when he published this image, however it did point out the inherent problem in coding gender on a binary.

Coding violence as either present or absent also presented challenges. How should images which imply violence be coded? Armed soldiers are present in most of the images I reviewed. Does that indicate the presence of violence? And what about images in which Marianne takes the place of Jesus in biblical scenes? Viewers of this parody of The Last Supper would understand the implication that Marianne is about to be betrayed and killed but there is no specifically violent imagery in this caricature.

These questions do not invalidate the quantitative data I collected but rather show the importance of including qualitative analysis to add depth and nuance to our understanding of numeric trends. The data I collected by coding each image did provide interesting information on statistical trends and change over time but these numbers would not be meaningful without an examination of specific images in La Caricature.


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