International Relations In Your Living Room


With globalization, interconnectedness, and technological development at full speed, threats in this world seem closer than ever before by entering into our safe houses and lives.

Before starting the practical assignment, our group had already chosen to do the required group presentation on how comics and cartoons can relate to international relations (IR). Therefore, we decided to create a cartoon in order to gain better understanding of this specific visual medium. We concluded that cartoons have the ability to pose serious and difficult matters or events in an amusing way, and most important cartoons are able to criticize society in a way that has become widely accepted. During the next step of our process we have made ourselves acquainted with theory on cartoons in IR.

After a literature review and a discussion, we found that through visual media, events happening around the world enter into personal lives in a rapid and powerful way. Although they are still very distant, fear for terrorism, health hazards due to climate change, privacy violation due to cyber crime seem to be closer than ever before. Additionally, all these matters can be traced back to security matters, securitization theory and thus IR. Following, our conclusion is that visual media is a highly powerful source and is able to create fear among society.

Next, the aim of our cartoon had to be defined. Important was that, despite a lack of background in IR-theory the viewer should be able to understand the consequences of international (political) affairs – thus IR – that are present in our everyday life. And that through its power, visual media can influence our reactions towards these affairs.

Following this, the actual creative process was started by deciding to make a tripartite cartoon. The first drawing was to be a man watching television news on increasing smog hazard. The second, being the same man watching the news another time while wearing a facemask and seeing news on IS hostages. The last drawing being the man watching television while wearing the facemask and a bullet proof vest. The underlying idea here is that the cartoon shows the strong influence of visual media news leading to precautionary reactions of the man as a response to IR related affairs he sees.

While during the drawing process the group had a clear idea about what was being told, others had not. For this reason the process of bringing a message through the three drawings was a challenging process. Therefore, the next step was to create clarity for readers lacking background knowledge. This was done by adding small details that made a significant impact. These included working with bold colours-pencils to create a relation between the cartoon and actual happenings, and the CNN logo for creating a link to the CNN-effect. Furthermore, the use of a text banner gave more clarity about the smog, which could be interpreted differently if not clarified. Concluding, we feel that we have accomplished in telling a story on the power of visual media and the message that IR are present in our everyday lives.

By Hannah Bakx, Marleen Breman, Luca Jansen

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