Re-Envisioning Peacekeeping: The United Nations and the Mobilization of Ideology

By François Debrix | Go to book overview

Introduction: Re-Envisioning the United Nations

In a recent volume entitled International Territory: The United Nations, 1945 – 95,1 photographer Adam Bartos provides a collection of snapshots that he took inside the United Nations building in New York. Bartos's arresting pictures, juxtaposed to one of Christopher Hitchens's short essays, represent different rooms, architectural designs, and still-life forms that seek to convey the “spirit of the UN.” The photos are a realist overview of empty rooms and inert objects that appear to be deprived of any signification. Through Bartos's photographic eye, the UN (as a modernist architectural and structural design) looks as if it had been frozen in time.


THE TERRITORY OF THE “FIRST UNIVERSAL SOCIAL CONTRACT”

What is the meaning of this frozen structure? What is the political and symbolic relevance of this so-called international territory, confined inside a stern mid-twentieth century architectural framework, which claims to be the place where the general will of humankind is represented? Three of Bartos's photographs give us an insight into the meaning, role, and importance of the UN today. The first picture is labeled “security desk, visitors' lobby” (figure 1). 2 It depicts the front desk of the information and security office in the UN building. Nobody is working at the desk. In fact, apart from the exuberant modernist pattern (circular and curved wood desk, green walls, light grey ceiling with sharp lamps lighting the entire room), the signs and

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