'Generic visuals' of Covid-19 in the news: Invoking banal belonging through symbolic reiteration

Camilla Mork Rostvik, Helen Kennedy, Chris Anderson, Giorgia Aiello* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, images of the virus molecule and ‘flatten-the-curve’ line charts were inescapable. There is now a vast visual repertoire of vaccines, people wearing face masks in everyday settings, choropleth maps and both bar and line charts. These ‘generic visuals’ circulate widely in the news media and, however unremarkable, play an important role in representing the crisis in particular ways. We argue that these generic visuals promote banal nationalism, localism and cosmopolitanism in the face of the crisis, and that they do so through the symbolic reiteration of a range of visual resources across news stories. Through an analysis of three major news outlets in the UK, we examine how generic visuals of Covid-19 contribute to these banal visions and versions of belonging and, in doing so, also to foregrounding the role of the state in responding to the crisis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-330
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number3-4
Early online date16 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (grant number AH/T000015/1).


  • banal nationalism
  • Covid-19
  • data visualisation
  • generic visuals
  • news media
  • symbolic reiteration
  • stock photography
  • visual communication


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