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Afterimage of Empire

Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-Century India

Zahid R. Chaudhary
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Afterimage of Empire
    Book Description:

    Afterimage of Empire provides a philosophical and historical account of early photography in India that focuses on how aesthetic experiments in colonial photography changed the nature of perception. Considering photographs from the Sepoy Revolt of 1857 along with landscape, portraiture, and famine photography, Zahid R. Chaudhary explores larger issues of truth, memory, and embodiment.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7950-8
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [ix]-[ix])
  3. INTRODUCTION Sensation and Photography
    (pp. 1-35)

    How might we reorient our understandings of colonial representations if we shift our focus to that interface between bodies and world that is the precondition for making meaning? InAfterimage of EmpireI argue that, following the well-traveled routes of global capital, photography arrives in India not only as a technology of the colonial state but also as an instrument that extends and transforms sight for photographers and the body politic, British and Indian alike. Such perceptual transformations are congruent not only with the technomaterial changes within photographic practice but also with transformations at the level of aesthetic form. These...

  4. ONE Death and the Rhetoric of Photography X Marks the Spot
    (pp. 37-71)

    Harriet Tytler, who, along with her husband, Robert, photographed many sites of the Sepoy Revolt, was born in India but, like many others, thought of herself as a foreigner to it. Yet as a small child (“a little over two years old”), when her mother was about to depart, leaving her in the care of her aunt and uncle, Tytler exclaimed to her mother, “Hum janta mamma chulla gia, chulla gia! [I know Mamma has gone away, has gone away].” It goes unexplained why this English child, who would grow up to give birth herself to another “foreign” child in...

  5. TWO Anaesthesis and Violence A Colonial History of Shock
    (pp. 73-105)

    You are looking at another photograph from the Sepoy Revolt of 1857–58 (Figure 2.1). The massive building confronting us and extending off-frame to the left is still imposing in its ruin, and it takes a blink of the eye to discern the litter of shattered skulls, decomposing bodies, and skeletons—only one complete—that extends into the space where a camera and now we stand. The faces of the remaining native onlookers are virtually indistinguishable, the focus of their gaze ultimately indiscernible, though some appear to stare directly back at the lens of camera and eye. Only the horse,...

  6. THREE Armor and Aesthesis The Picturesque in Difference
    (pp. 107-151)

    We are leaving the scenes of 1857—58, and in this chapter I extend the discussion of anaesthesis in the context of the entirely different genre of landscape photography. Because the Sepoy Revolt continued to resonate in British India into the twentieth century, the arrangements of perception and meaning making explored in the previous chapters on the photography of the revolt will continue to haunt the discussions of aesthetics in this chapter and the next. From scenes of violence and ruins we turn to scenes of picturesque vistas of nature. In the 1860s Samuel Bourne undertook several treks into the...

  7. FOUR Famine and the Reproduction of Affect Pleas for Sympathy
    (pp. 153-187)

    In my account thus far, the question of faith keeps returning in various forms: our faith in the indexical truth of the photograph, in rumor, in aesthetic form, and in Felice Beato’s case, in the veracity of historical violence. Of course, the punishment that General Neill meted out to Brahmins, by making them clean up the blood of their co-conspirators before executing them, must violate faith in order to condemn people to a fate worse than death. Yet this violation, relying as it does on a finely grained understanding of the other’s faith, also marks a certain intimacy shared by...

  8. CODA Sensing the Past
    (pp. 189-196)

    The past increasingly leaves its traces on our bodies in the form of images, and as Spinoza reminds us, we experience such traces as simultaneous with ourselves. Photography crystallizes some of these traces, and while it transforms our senses of truth, memory, and experience, it also relies upon and molds our affective capacities. Photographs are necessarily images of the past, and as we phenomenologically incorporate them into our bodily field, we do not necessarily feel this incorporation of the past as a fracturing of our present. We are accustomed to the simultaneity of our pasts with our present moment, because...

  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 197-200)
  10. Appendix: Translations
    (pp. 201-204)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 205-234)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-246)
  13. Index
    (pp. 247-258)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-259)
  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 260-271)