Knowledge and Vision: Photography within the Portuguese colonial archive and museum (1850-1950)

Knowledge and Vision: Photography within the Portuguese colonial archive and museum (1850-1950)

PHOTOGRAPHY AND COLONIALISM Throughout the second half of the 19th century, photography became a major instrument for forging national, colonial, and individual identities, and a new way of conceiving and communicating knowledge. From the 1850s and up to the 1950s it also constituted the main form of making the world visible. The hegemony of photography was contemporary with the hegemony of European colonialism. Beyond this temporal coincidence, photography became part of the multiple aspects of a colonial culture and a determinant historical object in its archive and museum - the spaces and places where material, written and visual objects completed their journeys. Among the many ways in which photography was used in a colonial context we could identify: 1) Propaganda: by annihilating the distance between metropolis and colonies and by showing places and peoples to those who were colonisers but could not see or know what they colonised, through other ways. 2) Knowledge: by being, from the mid-1850s, an inseparable tool of the various scientific knowledges that used the colonies as a laboratory; but also by becoming a fundamental instrument for the specific colonial sciences which developed within all European colonial contexts by the late 19th century through institutions, exhibitions, museums, congresses or journals specially dedicated to colonialism. Photography played a central role in the relationship between colonialism and knowledge but it was also appropriated by the colonised to forge their own identities and their own nationalist agendas, sometimes against colonial rule. BEYOND THE VISIBLE: PHOTOGRAPHY AS AN HISTORICAL OBJECT This project has an historical perspective but benefits from a interdisciplinary approach. Despite our interests in different colonial geographies we want to address some common problems: we want to understand photography as an object in itself (and not only as a surface for showing other objects), and as part of a written culture from where it should not be isolated. Photography is embedded with a written culture and it should not be isolated from it. We want to know the history of one photograph or a group of photographs: what was the context of its production? How was the photograph kept, exhibited, reproduced, collected and disseminated? Where is it now, in a museum, in an archive, in a public institution or in a private house?

Who saw it, who wrote on it, and who used it and how? What were the ideological uses of photography in a specific exhibitionary context, from a colonial exhibition in the metropolis to a universal exhibition in another European capital? Was it reproduced as a postcard or in an academic journal, a travel book, or a magazine of wide circulation? CIRCULATION, MOBILITY AND REPRODUCTION If this project is centred on the idea of the Portuguese metropolitan colonial archive, photography itself is particularly subject to mobility, globalisation, transnationalism, transcolonialism, reproduction, visibility and transformation. Photography was a privileged object circulating within the culture of deliveries that very often united different kinds of materials in the same place: from plants and ethnographical objects to private or administrative correspondence. If its portability made it a travelling object, its reproductive possibilities multiplied its discursive meanings. The photographic postcard and the development of publications illustrated with photography meant a profound transformation in the diffusion of images of the colonies. Beyond its technical novelty as a representational device, photography constituted a major cultural change, enmeshed in the creation of new forms of social relationships. Photography - its history, exchanges, reproductions and uses - within a colonial context will be the main subject of this project. The interdisciplinary research team - some with pioneering work on the subject, others, recently arrived but highly motivated - will have the challenge of bringing a neglected object such as photography into the recent historiographical trail of colonial studies. The novelty and originality of the project comes both by bringing together researchers and work that had until now remained fragmented and dispersed; and by exploring an extremely rich material - collections of photographs produced in the Portuguese colonial context that exist in the national archives and museums- inscribing it within the international theoretical and critical historiography that has approached such a subject. Having in mind the already long tradition of thinking of photography in French or British historiography, it appears to be urgent to make the same challenge in Portugal. Therefore, by promoting the knowledge of the existing archives, by organising an international conference and by publishing a book, we see this project as a point of departure, more than as a conclusive task.

 

Estatuto: 
Proponent entity
Financed: 
Yes
Entidades: 
Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia
Keywords: 

Colonialism, 

Visual culture,

Production of knowledge,

Colonial archive

PHOTOGRAPHY AND COLONIALISM Throughout the second half of the 19th century, photography became a major instrument for forging national, colonial, and individual identities, and a new way of conceiving and communicating knowledge. From the 1850s and up to the 1950s it also constituted the main form of making the world visible. The hegemony of photography was contemporary with the hegemony of European colonialism. Beyond this temporal coincidence, photography became part of the multiple aspects of a colonial culture and a determinant historical object in its archive and museum - the spaces and places where material, written and visual objects completed their journeys. Among the many ways in which photography was used in a colonial context we could identify: 1) Propaganda: by annihilating the distance between metropolis and colonies and by showing places and peoples to those who were colonisers but could not see or know what they colonised, through other ways. 2) Knowledge: by being, from the mid-1850s, an inseparable tool of the various scientific knowledges that used the colonies as a laboratory; but also by becoming a fundamental instrument for the specific colonial sciences which developed within all European colonial contexts by the late 19th century through institutions, exhibitions, museums, congresses or journals specially dedicated to colonialism. Photography played a central role in the relationship between colonialism and knowledge but it was also appropriated by the colonised to forge their own identities and their own nationalist agendas, sometimes against colonial rule. BEYOND THE VISIBLE: PHOTOGRAPHY AS AN HISTORICAL OBJECT This project has an historical perspective but benefits from a interdisciplinary approach. Despite our interests in different colonial geographies we want to address some common problems: we want to understand photography as an object in itself (and not only as a surface for showing other objects), and as part of a written culture from where it should not be isolated. Photography is embedded with a written culture and it should not be isolated from it. We want to know the history of one photograph or a group of photographs: what was the context of its production? How was the photograph kept, exhibited, reproduced, collected and disseminated? Where is it now, in a museum, in an archive, in a public institution or in a private house?

Who saw it, who wrote on it, and who used it and how? What were the ideological uses of photography in a specific exhibitionary context, from a colonial exhibition in the metropolis to a universal exhibition in another European capital? Was it reproduced as a postcard or in an academic journal, a travel book, or a magazine of wide circulation? CIRCULATION, MOBILITY AND REPRODUCTION If this project is centred on the idea of the Portuguese metropolitan colonial archive, photography itself is particularly subject to mobility, globalisation, transnationalism, transcolonialism, reproduction, visibility and transformation. Photography was a privileged object circulating within the culture of deliveries that very often united different kinds of materials in the same place: from plants and ethnographical objects to private or administrative correspondence. If its portability made it a travelling object, its reproductive possibilities multiplied its discursive meanings. The photographic postcard and the development of publications illustrated with photography meant a profound transformation in the diffusion of images of the colonies. Beyond its technical novelty as a representational device, photography constituted a major cultural change, enmeshed in the creation of new forms of social relationships. Photography - its history, exchanges, reproductions and uses - within a colonial context will be the main subject of this project. The interdisciplinary research team - some with pioneering work on the subject, others, recently arrived but highly motivated - will have the challenge of bringing a neglected object such as photography into the recent historiographical trail of colonial studies. The novelty and originality of the project comes both by bringing together researchers and work that had until now remained fragmented and dispersed; and by exploring an extremely rich material - collections of photographs produced in the Portuguese colonial context that exist in the national archives and museums- inscribing it within the international theoretical and critical historiography that has approached such a subject. Having in mind the already long tradition of thinking of photography in French or British historiography, it appears to be urgent to make the same challenge in Portugal. Therefore, by promoting the knowledge of the existing archives, by organising an international conference and by publishing a book, we see this project as a point of departure, more than as a conclusive task.

 

Objectivos: 
<p>Photography - its history, exchanges, reproductions and uses - within a colonial context will be the main subject of this project. The interdisciplinary research team - some with pioneering work on the subject, others, recently arrived but highly motivated - will have the challenge of bringing a neglected object such as photography into the recent historiographical trail of colonial studies. The novelty and originality of the project comes both by bringing together researchers and work that had until now remained fragmented and dispersed; and by exploring an extremely rich material - collections of photographs produced in the Portuguese colonial context that exist in the national archives and museums- inscribing it within the international theoretical and critical historiography that has approached such a subject. Having in mind the already long tradition of thinking of photography in French or British historiography, it appears to be urgent to make the same challenge in Portugal. Therefore, by promoting the knowledge of the existing archives, by organising an international conference and by publishing a book, we see this project as a point of departure, more than as a conclusive task. </p><p> </p>
State of the art: 
Apart from conveying a representation - which in itself is subject to our critical analysis - photography is an object that is produced in a specific context, by specific people, that travels, that can have multiple uses and that is part of wider processes of knowing and organising the world. Remaining in the face-value possibilities of photography, looking merely at what it represents, at what we can see is necessarily limiting its multiple possibilities as an historical object. The recent literature on the subject has explored its richness and depth, approaching it as one more object within the written, material or visual knowledge produced in a colonial context. Many of the ideas, approaches, research methodologies and problems we will be dealing with, and that are central to the subject, have already been proposed by the three excellent consultants we are lucky to have in our project, Elizabeth Edwards, Christopher Pinney and James Ryan. The first has been a pioneer in studying the parallel histories of photography and anthropology (EDWARDS, 1992) and in exploring the links between photography and the colonial archive and museum (EDWARDS, 2001). Her work has been fundamental in approaching photography through collecting practices, formation of scientific knowledge, and circulation and exchange of ideas, in short, studying the individual history of a photograph in its articulation with history, the &quot;social biography&quot; that PINNEY addresses so brilliantly in his book (1997). All these scholars argue against a mere "surface description"; or a mere analysis of its context of production, to explore its own history, beyond who photographed and what was photographed. This approach has been successfully taken up in the work of Nuno Porto, who has been a pioneer within Portuguese scholarship. Already ten years ago, he published a book on photography and science in colonial Angola (PORTO, 1999), the first of many contributions to a national and international bibliography on the subject. Our two other consultants have also been remarkable in inscribing photography within mechanisms of colonial power, oppression and dominance. By focusing their work on the British Empire and in its major colony, India, both PINNEY (1997) and RYAN (1997), contributed to reinforce a field of photography in India that already had some contributions (GUTMAN, 1982; FALCONER, 1990) but which came to assume a central line of research with many recent contributions (PELIZZARI, 2003; PINNEY, 2008). These two books witness one of the new approaches to photography in colonial India, and in 19th c. colonialism as a whole: that of exploring the ways in which indigenous elites and local communities have used photography and that of calling attention to the limitations of placing colonisers on one side, and colonised on the other.
Parceria: 
Unintegrated
Nuno Porto
Ana Cristina Martins
Catarina Mateus
Cosimo Chiarelli
Isabel Castro Henriques
Maria Leonor Silva
Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/04/2011
End Date: 
31/03/2013
Closed