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Afterimage of Empire

Photography in Nineteenth-Century India

2012
Author:

Zahid R. Chaudhary

Afterimage of Empire

How the colonial photograph revolutionized the very nature of perception

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.

An ambitious and theoretically challenging study of how photography shapes a new sensory and governmental apparatus of modernity in the colonial context, Afterimage of Empire succeeds in transforming the ways we think about the histories of photography and of colonialism.

David Lloyd, University of Southern California

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.

Chaudhary scrutinizes the colonial context to understand the production of sense itself, proposing a new theory of interpreting the historical difference of aesthetic forms. In rereading colonial photographic images, he shows how the histories of colonialism became aesthetically, mimetically, and perceptually generative. He suggests that photography arrived in India not only as a technology of the colonial state but also as an instrument that eventually extended and transformed sight for photographers and the body politic, both British and Indian.

Ultimately, Afterimage of Empire uncovers what the colonial history of the medium of photography can teach us about the making of the modern perceptual apparatus, the transformation of aesthetic experience, and the linkages between perception and meaning.

Afterimage of Empire

Zahid R. Chaudhary is assistant professor of English at Princeton University.

Afterimage of Empire

An ambitious and theoretically challenging study of how photography shapes a new sensory and governmental apparatus of modernity in the colonial context, Afterimage of Empire succeeds in transforming the ways we think about the histories of photography and of colonialism.

David Lloyd, University of Southern California

Afterimage of Empire is a significant and original work of cultural analysis, and an important intervention in our understanding of the sensory and rhetorical dimensions of nineteenth century colonialism.

Iftikhar Dadi, Cornell University

Afterimage of Empire is an astute analysis of photographic material, from the early days of the medium. It is impressive in its ability to move with care through the different scales of analysis—from the minutiae of scattered skulls in the foreground of one photograph to the question of whether a technology transforms both aesthetic form and the viewing subject.

Ranjana Khanna, Duke University

This handsomely produced book will be of great interest to theorists and researchers of early photography and the role of the visual in the formation of colonial discourse.

Source

This volume is heavily documented, and an exemplar of interdisciplinarity: shuttling effortlessly between phenomenological philosophy, photography, literary, postcolonial and affect theory, Chaudhary elucidates the historical, political and aesthetic formation of the senses during the latter half of the 19th century.

Reviews in History

Afterimage of Empire is a crucial text that advances visual culture studies in the Indian subcontinent but it will also be of interest to scholars and students in the disciplines of art, modernism and cinema.

Leonardo Reviews

Afterimage of Empire is a crucial text that advances visual culture studies in the Indian subcontinent but will also be of interest to scholars and students in the disciplines of art, modernism and cinema.

Leonardo

This book offers an unprecedented phenomenological reading of the history of colonial rule in India and of colonialism mediated through photography.

History of Photography

The exemplary strength of this book is its ability to outline the historical grounds for well-known images, while at the same time convincing us that this grounding is always open to change and can never be predicted in advance.

Victorian Studies

Chaudhary’s Afterimage of Empire is an extensive study which undoubtedly opens up reflection not only on the role of photography in the Indian subcontinent but on the cultural and sensorial changes brought by modernity both in the Western and non-Western worlds.

New Asia Books

Afterimage of Empire

Contents


Introduction: Sensation and Photography

1. Death and the Rhetoric of Photography: X Marks the Spot

2. Anaesthesis and Violence: A Colonial History of Shock

3. Armor and Aesthesis: The Picturesque in Difference

4. Famine and the Reproduction of Affect: Pleas for Sympathy

Coda: Sensing the Past


Acknowledgments
Appendixes
Translation of Proclamation Attributed to Nana Sahib
Transcription and Translation of Farsi Inscriptions
Notes
Bibliography
Index