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Visual Cultures of Colonialism

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Organizer: Olimpia Rosenthal

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The production, circulation, and display of images offers critical insight to understand the myriad ways in which colonial domination has been justified and contested across time and geographies. Still, colonial discourse analyses have traditionally sidelined the study of visual cultures and have largely focused on textual narratives, often overlooking significant interconnections between both. The main aims of this seminar are to: 1) highlight the major role visual cultures have played in shaping how imperial powers perceived colonial spaces and subjects, 2) revise and expand received ideas about colonial discourse, and 3) foreground how critical reexaminations of visual archives and performative repertoires can help supplement critical scholarship on colonialism and its ongoing legacies.

The seminar fosters comparative studies of colonialism across time and geographies, and welcomes papers that engage with one or more of the following questions and issues:

  • The memorialization of colonizers, indigenous leaders, and other historical figures linked to colonialism in public monuments, statutes, and paintings.

  • Material networks and print cultures linked to the circulation of colonial images.

  • Visual traditions that personify and often feminize colonial spaces, such as the depictions of Africa, America, Europe and Asia in maps and other cartographic representations.

  • The epistemic violence of visual representation, particularly in relation to the representation of colonized and enslaved subjects.

  • Processes of colonial racialization.

  • The ethics of visual representation and the imbalance of power between patrons, image makers, and depicted subjects.

  • Indigenous visual cultures at their transformation in the aftermath of colonization.

  • Ethnographic colonial voyeurism.

  • Gendered and racializing stereotypes in visual narratives of colonization, including the objectification and sexualization of colonized subjects.

  • Visual tropes and their connections to textual narratives.

  • Performative speech acts, ceremonies of possession, and their memorialization. 

  • Visual and performative archives as supplements or alternatives to textual archives.


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