Orayb Najjar

Document Type



The torture scandal of Abu Ghraib prison was exposed in 2004 when 60 Minutes introduced the story by placing on its web site the photo of a hooded prisoner on a box. That particular image, chosen by many cartoonists and scholars as the iconic image to represent torture, is the subject of this study. I apply the theories of `conceptual blending' (Fauconnier and Turner, 2002) to the Abu Ghraib cartoons of the hooded prisoner as well as to the cartoons that draw on that iconic image years later. By tracing the cognitive and visual strategies political cartoonist Emad Hajjaj used to transform that powerful icon into 24 cartoons between 2004-2010, I illustrate how the image continues to be blended into new `emergent structures' that are applied to other news events. I suggest that, over time, the Hajjaj cartoons changed from timely commentary on the mistreatment of prisoners, to icons that encourage `a devotional reading' (Mitchell, 2006) or related and unrelated news events. Those same images have also inspired political `culture jamming,' in which artists turned the iPod into iRaq, and posted mock iRaq posters, extending the life and reach of the image.

Publication Date


Original Citation

Orayb A. Najjar "`Emergent Structure' in the Abu Ghraib Political Cartoons of Emad Hajjaj in a News Context, or, What do the Images of Abu Ghraib `Want from Us'?" International Journal of the Image, volume 1, number 3, 2011.


Department of Communication

Legacy Department

Department of Communication






Common Ground Publishing LLC



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