Empires of Vision

A Reader

Empires of Vision


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Book Pages: 688 Illustrations: 58 photographs Published: February 2014

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Empires of Vision brings together pieces by some of the most influential scholars working at the intersection of visual culture studies and the history of European imperialism. The essays and excerpts focus on the paintings, maps, geographical surveys, postcards, photographs, and other media that comprise the visual milieu of colonization, struggles for decolonization, and the lingering effects of empire. Taken together, they demonstrate that an appreciation of the role of visual experience is necessary for understanding the functioning of hegemonic imperial power and the ways that the colonized subjects spoke, and looked, back at their imperial rulers. Empires of Vision also makes a vital point about the complexity of image culture in the modern world: We must comprehend how regimes of visuality emerged globally, not only in the metropole but also in relation to the putative margins of a world that increasingly came to question the very distinction between center and periphery.

Contributors. Jordanna Bailkin, Roger Benjamin, Daniela Bleichmar, Zeynep Çelik, David Ciarlo, Natasha Eaton, Simon Gikandi, Serge Gruzinski, James L. Hevia, Martin Jay, Brian Larkin, Olu Oguibe, Ricardo Padrón, Christopher Pinney, Sumathi Ramaswamy, Benjamin Schmidt, Terry Smith, Robert Stam, Eric A. Stein, Nicholas Thomas, Krista A. Thompson


“Duke University Press has done social visionaries a real service by printing Martin Jay and Sumathi Ramaswamy’s massive collection of insightful articles unveiling how the very way we see the world is daily shaped by ‘pictorial practices, image-making technologies, and vision-oriented subjectivities’ that have been ‘entangled in empire-building, nationalist reactions, post colonial contestations, and transnational globalization.’ It is not just economic or military power that shapes the way we see the world, but also photographs, paintings, maps, and the whole range of visual arts and media that are scrutinized in this collection.” — Tikkun

“The power of Empires of Vision is in its trans-disciplinary scope, but is also in its ambition. The themes and essays come together and prod the reader to consider the multi-dimensionality of image and empire. It moves beyond mere collections and museums; it moves beyond observed and observer. Empires of Vision examines the nature of empire through oft-forgotten and frequently overlooked historical characters.” — Lydia Pyne, Somatosphere

"An essential contribution to an ever-expanding field of investigation as much as it is fascinating reading." — Sandra Marques, Social Anthropology

"These essays, combined with masterily introductions by the editors... offer an exceptional initiation into thinking through the visual turn vis-a-vis modern European imperialism." — Carmen Nielson, Social History

"...enlightening, thought-provoking, and absorbing."  — Dennis Reinhartz, Terrae Incognitae

"The volume...comprises a sound and valuable anthology of established research on visual culture, Empire, and the postcolony. As most of these contributions have become or are on the way to becoming canonical works, Empires of Vision is exactly that — 'a reader.' As such, it is a valuable contribution to the field, and a useful text for those teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on visual culture, imperialism, and postcolonialism." — Stephen Sheehi, Canadian Journal of History

"Empires of Vision is one of those books that had to be written, and that required, not a single author but an interdisciplinary and cosmopolitan collective of scholarly learning and critical passion. In a brilliant series of interventions, the authors gathered here survey the full range of ways in which imperialism worked its black magic, not just with the standard tools of armies and military technologies, bureaucracies and gunboats, but with photographs, paintings, maps, and the whole range of visual arts and media. This is essential reading for art historians, anthropologists, and scholars of visual culture across the globe." — W. J. T. Mitchell, author of Seeing Through Race

"The culture of empire has been assessed and analyzed most frequently on the evidence of its "writings." It is the inscriptive archives of law, literature, anthropology, history, theology, amongst others, that have dominated our view of the representational conditions and ideological commitments that prevail in colonial societies. But empire was a potent apparatus for looking, viewing, and gazing—an act of surveillance, an art of regulation, and a profound shaper of visual culture. No collaboration could be as fruitful as the shared spirits of Martin Jay and Sumathi Ramaswamy, who serve as our gifted cicerones in the world of empire's seeing. They have gathered together some of the most important essays that explore the visual domain of empire's rule and misrule, and their anthology will have a transformative effect on art history, the history of ideas, and postcolonial studies." — Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Martin Jay is Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of many books, including Downcast Eyes, The Dialectical Imagination, and Marxism and Totality.

Sumathi Ramaswamy is Professor of History at Duke University. She is the author of The Goddess and the Nation, also published by Duke University Press; The Lost Land of Lemuria, and Passions of the Tongue.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations ix

Reprint Acknowledgments xi

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction: The Work of Vision in the Age of European Empires / Sumathi Ramaswamy 1

Section I: The Imperial Optic

Introduction / Martin Jay and Sumathi Ramaswamy 25

Part 1: Empires of the Palette

1. The Walls of Images / Serge Gruzinski 47

2. Painting as Exploration: Visualizing Nature in Eighteenth-Century Colonial Science / Daniela Bleichmar 64

3. Indian Yellow: Making and Breaking the Imperial Palette / Jordanna Bailkin 91

4. Colonial Panaromania / Roger Benjamin 111

Part 2. The Mass-Printed Imperium

5. Objects of Knowledge: Oceanic Artifacts in European Engravings / Nicholas Thomas 141

6. Excess in the City? Consumption of Imported Prints in Colonial Calcutta, c. 1780–c. 1795 / Natasha Eaton 159

7. Advertising and the Optics of Colonial Power at the Fin de Siècle / David Ciarlo 189

Part 3. Mapping, Claiming, Reclaiming

8. Mapping Plus Ultra: Cartography, Space, and Hispanic Modernity / Ricardo Padrón 211

9. Mapping an Exotic World: The Global Project of Dutch Cartography, circa 1700 / Benjamin Schmidt 246

10. Visual Regimes of Colonization: European and Aboriginal Seeing in Australia / Terry Smith 267

Part 4. The Imperial Lens

11. The Photography Complex: Exposing Boxer-Era China (1900–1901), Making Civilization / James L. Hevia 283

12. Colonial Theaters of Proof: Representation and Laughter in the 1930s Rockefeller Foundation Hygeine Cinema in Java / Eric A. Stein 315

13. Colonialism and the Built Space of Cinema / Brian Larkin 346

Section II. Postcolonial Looking

Introduction / Martin Jay and Sumathi Ramaswamy 377

Part 5. Subaltern Seeing: An Overlap of Complexities

14. Speaking Back to Orientalist Discourse / Zeynep Çelik 395

15. Maps, Mother/Goddesses, and Martyrdom in Modern India / Sumathi Ramaswamy 415

16. Notes from the Surface of the Image: Photography, Postcolonialism, and Vernacular Modernism / Christopher Pinney 450

17. "I Am Rendered Speechless by Your Idea of Beauty": The Picturesque in History and Art in the Postcolony / Krista A. Thompson 471

18. Fanon, Algeria, and the Cinema: The Politics of Identification / Robert Stam 503

Part 6. Regarding and Reconstituting Europe

19. Creole Europe: The Reflection of a Reflection / Christopher Pinney 539

20. Picasso, Africa, and the Schemata of Difference / Simon Gikandi 566

21. Double Dutch and the Culture Game / Olu Oguibe 594

Conclusion. A Parting Glance: Empire and Visuality / Martin Jay 609

Contributors 621

Index 629
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5448-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5436-9
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