A Genealogy of the Terrorist in Western Culture

  • Christiana Spens


In this chapter, the first part of the intervisual study looks at a range of historical and mythological villains through the prism of post-colonialist critique, particularly their representation in visual culture. Identifying key visual motifs and metaphors, it lays the foundation for understanding where the motifs used to portray terrorists are derived from, and why they are so powerful and recognisable to a modern audience. This process of remembrance and the continuation of past attitudes in modern portrayals is understood as a key aspect of the wider scapegoating ritual which relies on this connection to cultural mythology to function.


Colonialism Post-colonialism Visuality Genealogy Witches Lynching 


Visual Sources (Film, Photography and Fine Art)

  1. Burrows, Larry, A Grieving Widow, 1968. Vietnam: The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.
  2. De Gheyn II, Jacques, Witches in a Cellar, 1604. Pen and Brush with Brown and Grey Ink, 28.2 × 41 cm. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Reproduced in Petherbridge, Deanna, Witches and Wicked Bodies. Edinburgh: Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland, 2013.Google Scholar
  3. ———, Witches Sabbath, 1600. Pen and Brown Ink, Brown Wash on Paper. New York: The Metropolitan Museum.
  4. Dir. Clements, Ron and Musker, John, Aladdin, 1992. Hollywood, CA: Walt Disney Pictures. Film Still “Jafar” accessible at
  5. Dir. Fleming, Victor, The Wizard of Oz, 1939. Hollywood, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Film Still “The Wicked Witch of the West” accessible at
  6. Dir. Geronimi, Clyde, Jackson, Wilfred and Luske, Hamilton, Peter Pan, 1953. Hollywood, CA: Walt Disney Productions. Film Still “Captain Hook” accessible at
  7. Dir. Greno, Nathan and Howard, Byron, Tangled, 2010. Hollywood, CA: Walt Disney Studios. Film Still “Mother Gothel” accessible at
  8. Dir. Hamilton, Guy, Live and Let Die, 1973. London: Eon Productions. Film Still “Tee Hee Johnson” accessible at
  9. Dir. Hand, David, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, 1937. Hollywood, CA: Walt Disney Productions. Film Still “The Evil Queen” accessible at
  10. Dir. Mendes, Sam, Skyfall, 2012. London: Eon Productions. Film Still “Raoul Silva” accessible at
  11. Dir. Reed, Carol, Oliver! 1968. Hollywood, CA: Columbia Pictures. Film Still of “Fagan” accessible at
  12. Dir. Stromberg, Robert, Maleficent, 2014. Hollywood, CA: Walt Disney Pictures. Film Still “Maleficient” accessible at
  13. Dir. Young, Terence, From Russia with Love, 1963. London: Eon Productions. Film Still ‘Ernst Stavro Blofeld’ accessible at
  14. ———, Thunderball, 1965. London: Eon Productions. Film Still “Emilio Largo (a.k.a. Maximillian Largo)” accessible at
  15. Smith, John Raphael, The Weird Sisters from Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, 1785. Work on Paper, 457 × 558 mm. The British Museum.
  16. Visscher, Claes Jansz, The Execution of the Conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot, 1606. Etching, 235 × 342 mm. The National Portrait Gallery.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christiana Spens
    • 1
  1. 1.School of International RelationsUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

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