Body Pictographs and the Disappeared; Ghosting (through) City Spaces. A Short Essay with Photographs

  • Owain Jones Countryside and Community Research Institute
Keywords: human form, city surface, purpose, association, political and ethical, disappeared, political violence, city spaces


This essay and accompanying photographs forms a contemplation of pictographs of the human form which are routinely painted onto city surfaces to demark walkways, cycleways and pedestrian zones. Whole series of initially identical pictographs can take on individual appearance as they fade and distort. Over time their original purpose wanes and other (possible) associations can form. I suggest that such images of the body can never be neutral or innocent, as they will always carry some political and ethical ‘charge’. And when these images do become distorted and/ or faded, they become suggestive of the political body and the body damaged by industry and other forms of political violence. They begin to whisper of other graphic images sometimes painted onto, or even burnt into city surfaces. Some of these ‘other’ images are pictographs of resistance which have represented the bodies of the Disappeared in a range of harsh political regimes. The information pictographs can thus become, and speak of, ‘spectral traces’ - ghostly presences in the city. They can link everyday city spaces to other places and other times through the geographic-empathetic imagination, and through the flow of texts and images through physical and virtual space-time.
How to Cite
Jones, O. (1). Body Pictographs and the Disappeared; Ghosting (through) City Spaces. A Short Essay with Photographs. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 13(1), 135-152. Retrieved from