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Afterimage of EmpirePhotography in Nineteenth-Century India$

Zahid R. Chaudhary

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816677481

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816677481.001.0001

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Sensation and Photography

Sensation and Photography

(p.x) (p.1) Introduction Sensation and Photography
Afterimage of Empire

Zahid R. Chaudhary

University of Minnesota Press

Abstract and Keywords

This introductory chapter sets out the book’s main argument that, 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. The chapter then discusses general transformations in perception and the arrival of photography in India. It analyzes the scene of the photographer and camera and their corollary, the spectator and the photograph, in order to arrive at a more textured understanding of how exactly photography transforms the perceptual apparatus. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.

Keywords:   photography, India, photographers, body politic, perception, spectator

The body is our anchorage in a world.

—Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception

Just as the mode of existence of human collectives changes over long historical periods, so too does their mode of perception.

—Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility”


Sensation and Photography

Figure I.1. G. E. Dobson, Group of Five YoungAndamanese Women,1872. Rai5759.

Courtesyof the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.

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? In Afterimage of Empire I 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 transformations show that while sensing the world is inseparable from, though not identical with, making sense of it, the traffic between sense perception and ideation is historically conditioned.

The global dissemination of photography in the 1800s has had irreversible effects on the modern formation of the senses. A viewer’s relationship to a photograph at first involves sight, only in order to set sight itself within the play of other sensate experiences: smell, hearing, touch, taste, but also embodied experiences of memory, desire, pleasure, and pain. While such experiences cannot be dissociated from the sensory and affective experience of older mimetic forms, such as novels or poems, photography at this early juncture did (p.2) not require textual or elite–aesthetic literacy as its condition of reception.1 So its reach qualitatively and quantitatively increased over the course of the nineteenth century. In the early era of photography, observers viewed this new medium’s aesthetic potential with enthusiasm and skepticism in equal measure. This period is pivotal in assessing the formative contribution of photography to the history of sensate experience—of the aesthetic, in its root sense. I assume that a key aspect of early photography is not simply to represent or to produce images but to help form a newly technologized body on a mass scale across diverse social formations. If, following Marx, the “formation [Bildung] of the five senses is the work of all previous history,”2 then in this study I understand photography as establishing a new Bildung that is global in scope. The cultural, material, and economic contradictions and effects of capitalism take an especially acute form in the colonies, and photography’s negotiation with this terrain in India is particularly instructive, not only for a genealogy of colonial visual culture, but also for theories of photographic practice. What the colonial history of the medium may have to teach us about the making of the modern perceptual apparatus, of the links between perception and meaning, and of the transformation of aesthetic experience itself, is the primary focus of this book.

An anecdote from colonial history serves to show the subtle dance between sensing and making sense, framing and persuasion. On October 15, 1869, while visiting London, Syed Ahmed Khan, an Indian Muslim reformer and essayist, wrote a long and detailed letter to the secretary of the Scientific Society at Allygurgh. The letter later appeared in Urdu and in English translation in the Allygurgh Institute Gazette. In the context of a discussion of the English treatment of Indians, he writes:

In the India Office is a book in which the races of all India are depicted in pictures and in letterpress, giving the manners and customs of each race. Their photographs show that the pictures of the different manners and customs were taken on the spot, and the sight of them shows how savage they are—the equals of animals. The young Englishmen who, after passing the preliminary Civil Service examination, have to pass examinations on special subjects for two years afterwards, come to the India Office preparatory to starting for India, and, desirous of knowing something of the land to which they are going, also look over this work. What can they think, after perusing this book and looking at its pictures, of the power and honour of the natives of India? One day Hamid, Mahmud [Khan’s sons], and I went to the India Office, and Mahmud commenced looking at the work. A young Englishman, probably a passed civilian, came up, and after a short time asked Mahmud if he was a Hindustani? Mahmud replied in the affirmative, but blushed as he did so, and hastened to explain that he was not one of the (p.3) aborigines, but that his ancestors were formerly of another country. Reflect, therefore, that until Hindustanis remove this blot they shall never be held in honour by any civilized race.3

The book in question is the eight-volume The People of India (1868–75), an ethnographic magnum opus complete with 486 albumen prints. Khan’s original letter is more specific about certain details, noting that the Englishman’s question was asked “with evident feeling of contempt” and that Mahmud “felt deeply ashamed.”4 Hence the desire to distance oneself from India, even as an Indian, and to rely on an alternate genealogy that, in Mahmud’s case, goes back to Herat, to the Husaini Syeds who arrived in India in the seventeenth century. Of course, condensed within this search for an alternative genealogy are the race and class anxieties of an educated Indian who is traveling in London and has just learned to view himself from an English point of view. It is worth noting, however, that in spite of being shocked at the parade of tribals and “native” types, Khan is perfectly persuaded by the civilizational discourse upon which The People of India depends. His emphatic rejection of the volume speaks paradoxically to photography’s powers of persuasion. On the one hand, Khan and his son Mahmud are not at all convinced that The People of India is representative of the people of India; photography in this volume has ostensibly failed in its ideological mission. On the other hand, the sense of shame that leads Mahmud to disown his connection to India speaks of a deeper and far more profound persuasion that India is in fact a place to which it would be shameful to belong. Photography cannot, of course, be wholly credited with this persuasion: the number of sources for such a worldview for an elite Indian subject in the nineteenth century is no doubt overdetermined. But photography can, it seems, be credited with the power to summon such shame from its depths, to give visible shape to the murky and half-apprehended notions of one’s own place in the world. This, too, is a form of persuasion, all the subtler for being uncannily familiar and all the more powerful for being “objectively” true.

And yet such forms of persuasion have their own unforeseen effects. As invested as Syed Ahmed Khan is in civilizational discourse—in this very letter he condemns Indians for being uncivilized—his writings on Indian education, gender, and Muslim identity constitute an alternate narrative of improvement and self-making that is not neatly contiguous with the English civilizing mission for India. There is nothing predetermined about photography’s persuasive powers, in other words. Moreover, in the circuit of power and knowledge where the images from The People of India circulated, it is clear that persuasion at the level of discourse does not assume a subject who is doing the persuading. This might seem an unlikely claim to make for a volume commissioned by the colonial state and fueled in part by the enthusiasm of Governor-General (p.4) Lord Canning and his wife for photography. A certain kind of Saidian-derived postcolonial reading practice would describe British representations of colonized people as part of a growing archive of overarching rationality in which the colonized subjects figure as “other,” and English subjects figure as fully human.5 Certainly The People of India and much colonial photography in India lend themselves to such a reading, a reading whose argumentative tracks are by now very familiar, usually taking this course: discourse creates its object; Western knowledge creates the non-West as a one-dimensional figure of difference; Western knowledge is, in turn, one-dimensional itself; the Western subject, like the non-Western one, is trapped in this discursive production that relies on binary terms in which the West occupies the privileged place of the binary.6 The persuasive power of this line of thinking is indisputable and is easily at hand when faced with an archival object like The People of India, which seeks to fix and define “natives” in the service of colonial management.7 But this line of thinking can also be a kind of machinery that produces an identical result, no matter how intractable the material.8 Nevertheless, pursuing it briefly is worthwhile, if only to demonstrate how, precisely, the present work is written at the limits of such a methodology.

Between Sensation and Intellection

The photographic archive left from the days of the British Raj in India consists of a perhaps predictable range of representations: landscapes, buildings (standing and in ruins), the indigenous populations (individuals and groups, living and dead), and the British engaged both in “high tea” and in war. The history of photography in India begins almost concurrently with its inception in Europe; it became available in India within a year of Louis Jacques Daguerre’s experiments in 1839 but proliferated widely on the subcontinent only after 1857. Thus I situate the history of photography in India in the context of the seismic upheaval that was the Sepoy Revolt of 1857–58, in which Indian recruits in the British army rebelled against their superiors. The constitutively tense tripartite relation among photographer, camera, and represented colonial subject or object was produced, for the most part, in the aftermath of the Sepoy Revolt.

Immediately after the last rebels were hanged and shot in 1858, direct crown rule replaced the rule of the East India Company, and Charles John Canning, the first viceroy, began encouraging army officers to take cameras on their travels to photograph the people of India and to deposit copies of the plates with him. This was the beginning of the first state-sanctioned archival photographic practice in India. In 1863 John William Kaye of the Secret and Political Department in eastern Bengal, expanded Canning’s project to photograph systematically all of the communities of India, in preparation for the (p.5) eight-volume The People of India. The rhetoric of the preface to the first volume turns on the capacious notion of interest:

The great convulsion of 1857–58, while it necessarily retarded for a time all scientific and artistic operations, imparted a newer interest to the country which had been the scene, and to the people who had been the actors in these remarkable events. When, therefore, the pacification of India had been accomplished, the officers of the Indian services, who had made themselves acquainted with the principles and practices of photography, encouraged and patronized by the Governor-General, went forth and traversed the land in search of interesting subjects.9

In addition to the imputation that photography is at once scientific and artistic (the latter being a most important “supplement” to, and a potential contradiction of, the former), the word interest in this passage serves as a sort of ideological pivot: the violent revolt imparted a newer interest to India, requiring that officers travel the land in search of interesting subjects. The logical circularity of this fundamental proposition would have required little explanation for the nineteenth-century British consumer, to whom The People of India was chiefly directed and for whom such “interest” was wholly unproblematic and naturalized. For us the words interest and interesting are overdetermined by notions of (ethical) concern and (psychological and economic) investment, both of which are at once key players in the domain of knowledge and contain within themselves barely concealed traces of fear for all manner of loss, from the economic to the psychological. The newest technological apparatus for the articulation of this nexus of concern–investment–knowledge was the camera, with which the army officers planned to “shoot” their interesting subjects.

It was in this conjuncture, then, that photography in India came to have its most extensive and profound application.10 It entered the ever-expanding archive of Empire, taking its place beside the more or less fetishized archaeological and ethnographic artifact in the public museum or in the bourgeois interior with its unique form of private appropriation, consumption, and ideological reproduction. The People of India formally launched the genre of anthropological photography on an unprecedented scale on the vast subcontinent. Its aim was to “preserve” rapidly disappearing forms of life, in the process giving full reign to the photographers’ primitivist aesthetics and simultaneously building taxonomies of castes and professions. Detective surveillance was never far away: here we are reminded that the German word for “enlightenment,” Aufklärung, means also “surveillance”—another constitutive feature of its “dialectic,” in the sense of Adorno and Horkheimer, and not the least of its darker side.

(p.6) It is in light of this discursive context that we can enter into the chiaroscuro world of colonial photography. Figure I.1, from the People of India, is a photograph taken by G. E. Dobson: Group of Five Young Andamanese Women, from 1872. Three years later, in a paper published in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute, Dobson wrote that the central female figure was from the Andamanese Orphan School on Ross Island, whom he had seen frequently in the school or in the church “dressed in white.” Yet his photograph representing her “destitute of clothes, shaved, and greased with a mixture of olive-coloured mud and fat” was clearly more appropriate, insofar as Dobson’s concern and interest were to stage the authentic primitiveness he imagined to lie beneath the mere veneer of superimposed British civilization.11 In a double move, Dobson “represents” the fear that civilization itself is fragile, as easily stripped as a Sunday dress. The truth of the authentic primitiveness revealed here could be represented only through an imposed phantasmagoria of naked flesh, mud-caked faces, and the requisite wooden vessel—turned upside down, with the primitive foot resting on it, as if to suggest a momentary refusal of labor.

In a similar vein, a lithograph based on a photograph by Tosco Peppé of two Juang girls (Figure I.2), also reproduced in The People of India, shows us two women, “wild timid creatures” whom Peppé had “immense difficulty in inducing to pose before [him].”12 Convinced that this was “almost their last appearance in leaves,” Peppé insisted on capturing them in their “natural state” lest the onslaught of civilization destroy the image.13 The frame of this photograph gives us a view of what is no doubt intended to convey a natural scene: the two women standing virtually nude against a wooden wall, while one woman innocently toys with the bead necklace close to the other woman’s breast and indicates the other woman’s genitals with her free hand. This is the fantasy of primitive innocence, when forbidden knowledge remained as-yet undiscovered. The positioning of a “primitive” woman’s hands near the breast and genital area of another “native” is meant not to detract but to add to the cold scientific racial truth invested in the anthropological photograph. But if this frame presents us with a view of the natural habitat of the primitive, then why does the primitive figure seem radically not-at-home in it? The immense difficulty with which Peppé induced these women to pose before him has left an imprint on the photograph itself, in the glare with which the molested woman on the right stares out at us. Dressed, posed, and captured, these Juang girls have had foreignness imposed on them. The colonial forms of knowledge intervening in the lifeworlds of these two figures frame them with forms radically foreign to the two figures, not only because the concept of the “primitive” itself marks the site of the colonizer who produces this concept, but also, more literally, because these two women normally wear Manchester saris rather than leaves and beads.14 This intervention, in turn, secures the photographer (p.7)

Sensation and Photography

Figure I.2. Two Juang girls. Lithograph based on a photograph by Tosco Peppé.

From Edward Tuite Dalton’s Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal,1872. The AlkaziCollection of Photography.

(p.8) in the certainty of his own foreignness to this scene, distinguishing him from the undifferentiated primitiveness surrounding him in India.

These photographs record the radical transformations (epistemic, political, and economic) in social relations that pass under the sign of the colonial encounter. Such transformations are of a piece with the logic of the colonial scene of technological reproduction. For example, Benedict Anderson notes that central to the historical consolidation of the colonial state are the powers offered by the age of technological reproduction; print and photography allowed the possibility of “infinite reproducibility” of the sites (archaeological, cartographic, racial) of state imaginings. While this process remained politically “unconscious” at the level of statecraft, “it was precisely the infinite quotidian reproducibility of its regalia that revealed the real power of the state”:15

Through technologies such as the census, the map, and the museum (all of which are buttressed by the technological reproducibility of their knowledge), the colonial state did not merely aspire to create, under its control, a human landscape of perfect visibility; the condition of this “visibility” was that everyone, everything, had (as it were) a serial number. This style of imagining did not come out of thin air. It was the product of the technologies of navigation, astronomy, horology, surveying, photography and print, to say nothing of the deep driving power of capitalism.16

In the case of India, it is important to remember that these technologies become central not only to the colonial state but also to forms of private capital that only partly overlap with the colonial state. Colonial photography produces a visibility that legitimates and records the “value” of the colonial effort in the same frame as it measures the colonial subject. It aids in the production of regularities, showing us ghostly series of racial forms, sublime vistas of foreign lands, or history distilled into picturesque ruins. Walter Benjamin writes, “With regard to countless movements of switching, inserting, pressing, and the like, the ‘snapping’ of the photographer had the greatest consequences. Henceforth a touch of the finger sufficed to fix an event for an unlimited period of time. The camera gave the moment a posthumous shock, as it were.”17 Like the factory clock that is the figure of the temporality of shock in Benjamin’s account, photography inserts shock into the very time frozen in the photographic image. The photograph, a material and transportable image of “reality,” allows the scene within the frame to be defamiliarized anew in each context in which the photograph is discovered. If photography makes the reality of the depicted scene commutable across time and space, then the reality we witness in these images is not accessible in any unmediated way. Not only have we been able to read these photographs against the grain, but also the meaning of what we see in the frame will constantly shift, since the (p.9) transportable “reality” that photographs produce continually changes character with respect to the conditions in which that reality is read.

Here we come across an insurmountable limit to colonial discourse analysis, and the specific limit, in our case, is made possible by the medium specificity of photography itself. We cannot pursue a Saidian-derived methodology of reading colonial photographs, because the phenomenology of the photographic image prevents us from doing so in good faith. The “posthumous shock” that the camera gives to the historical moment preserved in the colonial archive undoes the fixity of that archive’s narratives about the “native.” If the rhetoric of photography is such that we are persuaded by it at some unconscious level, then the forms of specific persuasions are not predetermined. Put simply, photography can just as easily fail as succeed when pressed into the service of a particular ideological agenda. This is because photographs inevitably record more than the photographer’s intention; certain details and contingencies recorded by the camera and yet unseen in their own time can either buttress or undo the aims of any project that mobilizes photography.18 In spite of photography’s use as one technology among others of colonial control and discipline, it is a medium that itself resists control. This has been the case since its inception; the modern proliferation of increasingly mobile and “uncontrollable” digital photography is simply a corollary to this fundamental phenomenological aspect of the medium.

This aspect of photography is paradoxical, since it hinges on a play of the visible and the invisible: certain details in photographs become legible only under certain historical conditions. On the one hand, the photograph shows too much, in fact more than we can see, and by that same logic, something we cannot apprehend is inevitably present in every photograph, something beyond the reach of our sight, bound as we are to the horizon of our own present perceptions. Walter Benjamin referred to this dimension of visuality as the “optical unconscious,” and no doubt certain details make themselves manifest to the camera lens in a way that the naked eye is incapable of seeing. As Benjamin reminds us, the camera does not necessarily render the contents of such an unconscious visible (though it might); rather, it allows us to conceive of such a zone in the same way that psychoanalysis allowed us to conceive of the instinctual unconscious.19 Two interrelated implications are present here: objects in the world necessarily give rise to concepts,20 and the transformations in perceptual apparatus that are indexed by visual technologies such as photography necessarily transform the conceptual apparatus. In addition, Benjamin’s use of the term unconscious signals that all may not be as it appears to the consciousness that receives the photographic image. Even as images began to proliferate faster and farther over the course of the nineteenth century, the visible was not necessarily the same as the fully manifested. It is not that we must simply await the historical manifestation of what remains invisible now or that with (p.10) greater clarity (new instruments, new stances) we can access what remains invisible, but rather, like the unconscious itself, an absolute otherness exists at the heart of the visible itself, an otherness to which photography alerts us. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, in a fragment to his posthumously published book, The Visible and the Invisible, puts it best in his discussion of touch: “The untouchable is not a touchable that happens to be inaccessible; the unconscious is not a representation that happens to be inaccessible. The negative here is not a positive that is elsewhere (something transcendent). It is a true negative.”21 So if photography allows us to make visible the infinitely small steps involved in the flap of a bird’s wing, such a visibility only points to a field of the heretofore unknown, invisible, and unconscious.22

The senses constantly come up against their limits, and the invention of photography showed, retrospectively and sometimes triumphantly, the “poverty” of vision that predated it. But the senses may also inhibit perception itself. As the inventor of the unconscious argues in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, blocking stimuli is as important to the human sensorium as allowing stimuli to penetrate. Here, Sigmund Freud’s unease with phenomenological understandings of consciousness is worth considering. In other words, if perception is excentric—the senses extend outward toward the world—then a reverse tendency simultaneously occurs in which consciousness serves as a kind of armor against, rather than an entry point for, the world. If, as one phenomenological axiom would have it, our being in the world is commensurate with our being datives for the ways in which the world manifests itself to us, then this capacity to arm ourselves against the world challenges the founding assumptions of the phenomenological understandings of the self. Insofar as it extends sense perception, the camera, I argue, encompasses both aspects of consciousness: it functions both as a sensory prosthetic and as an armor against the world.

While the camera-as-prosthesis extends sight, the means of arranging the scene necessarily relies upon previous habits of looking. In addition to our historical positioning, the form of the composition, too, can serve to block out aspects of the scene even as it presents it. Chapter 3 details the picturesque aesthetic as one aesthetic form that serves as a kind of armor against the world it seeks to sense. There, to make sense of the world means necessarily to keep certain elements from becoming available to sensation. Aesthetic forms must restrict the presencing of objects in the world in order to make these objects manifest. In that respect, aesthetic forms are similar to the phenomenological understanding of habit. Habit is critical to the business of perception, because it is what allows us to filter out objects from consciousness in order to get through the day; if every object were subjected to our attention we could never move forward. Habit straddles the boundary between sensation and judgment. Edmund Husserl, while insisting that one of the aims of phenomenology is to (p.11) recognize our own habits as habits and therefore see the world afresh, provides a subtle account of the work that habits perform for us:

If, in an act of judgment, I decide for the first time in favour of a being and a being-thus, the fleeting act passes; but from now on I am abidingly the Ego who is thus and so decided, “I am of this conviction.” That, however, does not signify merely that I remember the act or can remember it later. This I can do, even if meanwhile I have “given up” my conviction…. As long as it is accepted by me, I can “return” to it repeatedly, and repeatedly find it as mine, habitually my own opinion or, correlatively, find myself as the Ego who is convinced, who, as the persisting ego, is determined by this abiding habitus or state.23

The acquiring of habit, although indispensible, necessarily entails, for Husserl, a continual reaffirmation and recognition of the newly habituated self, which is the same as recognizing a familiar judgment as one’s own. Like aesthetic forms, habits can be cultivated, improvised upon, assumed, made invisible, and be subjected to scrutiny.

If Husserl’s example of habit is the judgment, Merleau-Ponty reminds us that judgments, intellection, making sense, are all matters of the body, particularly where habit is concerned:

It is the body which understands in the acquisition of habit. This way of putting it will appear absurd, if understanding is subsuming a sense datum under an idea, and if the body is as an object. But the phenomenon of habit is just what prompts us to revise our notion of “understand” and our notion of the body. To understand is to experience the harmony between what we aim at and what is given, between the intention and the performance—and the body is our anchorage in a world.24

The body is the pivot between sensation and intellection; we learn by doing and responding, and the acquisition of skills and knowledge is a bodily phenomenon. Judgment and sensation are already conjoined in the originary sense of the Greek word aisth sis. We must recall that the original meaning of aisth sis refers not to affrarified discourse on art but rather to “sensation,” “perception,” and “feeling.” In its history, already checkered in the Greek sources, aisth sis refers not only to the senses of sight, smell, hearing, and touch but also to affects such as pleasure, pain, desire, fear, and so forth.25 Aisth sis refers first and foremost to the effects of the world striking our senses, including the feelings evoked by such stimuli. Aesthetic form, then, is the process by which one makes sense, habitually, of worldly stimuli; it is not a rarefied term referring to a realm that hovers above politics and the crude, primitively material world. Rather, aesthetic form, because it arranges the world into sense, necessarily has its shielding aspect, in the same way that habit does. That is, aesthetic (p.12) forms allow permeability between the sensing subject and the world, but in this traffic between things and thoughts, perceptions and conceptions, the material and the immaterial, certain elements must be filtered out. The terms under which aesthetic forms perform this kind of shielding and filtering—however inevitable and necessary—are places where politics enters into the business of sensing and making sense of the world.

Attachment and the Past

Figure I.3, a photograph by Samuel Bourne, taken in the 1860s, shows an Englishman contemplating the famous memorial well at Cawnpore, which was, just a few years earlier, the sight of bloodshed. In June 1857, at the height of the Sepoy Revolt and after about a month of constant siege, Nana Sahib, the local Indian leader and rebel, promised the British in Cawnpore safe passage to Allahabad. As they began to make their way onto the boats that would take them down the river and away from Cawnpore, Nana Sahib called out the order for their massacre, and the men, women, and children were attacked. All of the men were killed on the riverbank, which would become known as “the slaughter ghat” or “massacre ghat” in imperial memory, and the remaining one hundred to two hundred women and children (the number varies according to source) were imprisoned in a small empty house. On July 17, Nana Sahib’s men dragged out both the living and the dead from the house, stripped them of all possessions including clothing, and pushed them into a nearby well.26 This is the spot on which Baron Marochetti’s monument was erected soon after the Sepoys were defeated in 1858 and upon which the figure in Bourne’s photograph casts a melancholy gaze. The scale of the small figure in comparison to the significant pictorial space taken up by the memorial garden and the distant monument accentuates the enormity of the loss that surrounds the living. George Trevelyan, in his 1866 account of the revolt, writes of the monument, “It is the very place itself where the act was accomplished…. There, at least, in the November evening, an Englishman may stand with bare head, and, under the canopy of heaven, breathe a silent petition for grace to do in his generation some small thing towards the conciliation of races estranged by a terrible memory.”27 If only it had been simply memory that continued to estrange the Anglo-Indians and the Indians. And yet, in spite of Trevelyan’s liberal pleas, which cannot touch on the material causes of the continued enmity between colonizer and colonized, he astutely notes the importance of memory in maintaining such divisions. In fact, the persistence of memory itself (which photography aids) lent an uneasy calm to the Raj after the Sepoy Revolt. The memorial well and garden at Cawnpore quickly became a fixture on tours of India, and the scene circulated in the form of postcards and albumen prints that one could purchase and add to his or her own private photographic collection.


Sensation and Photography

Figure I.3. Samuel Bourne, memorial well at Cawnpore, 1860s. The Alkazi Collection of Photography.

Forty-three years after the Sepoy Revolt, the American photojournalist and entrepreneur James Ricalton published a guidebook to India, titled India through the Stereoscope: A Journey through Hindustan (1900), printed in both New York and London and complete with a box of one hundred pairs of stereoscopic photographs taken by Ricalton himself (scope sold separately). These paired stereoscopic views are numbered as one hundred chapters, or “viewing positions,” and Ricalton provides touristic historical and architectural details corresponding to each scene. In spite of the intervening forty-three years, the guidebook continues in the vein of post-1857 British tours of India, taking in the major sights of the Sepoy Revolt: the Cawnpore massacre ghat by the river, the memorial well and garden, various memorials in Lucknow, sights associated with particular battles in and around Delhi. Although Ricalton was an outsider to the cultural politics of the Raj, the inclusion of such an abundance of material on “Mutiny memorials” in this American’s stereoscopic tour through India is a testament to the enduring and well-known appeal of the pilgrimages to the sites of the Sepoy Revolt, which by 1900 had become standard stops on British tourist circuits through India.28 These sights of bloody battles—centered around Delhi, Cawnpore, and Lucknow—are interspersed with scenes such as position 79: “Your money’s worth of juicy fruit, at a stand on Chandni (p.14) Chouk [Silver Street], Delhi,” and in between an elegiac entry on the Cawnpore memorial well and the “Bailie Gate from east, torn by mutineers’ guns during siege; where rescuers entered Lucknow,” we find position 62: “Industrious dhobies [washermen] at work in river, west from Lucknow,” complete with caste information on dhobies and the kind of soap they used for washing clothes. As a successful entrepreneur (he had previously published Stereoscopic Tour through China) who knew that the book would find its largest commercial market in England, Ricalton seamlessly assimilates the peculiar combination of the touristic pleasures that India afforded the English: descriptions of the colonial ethnographic and landscape picturesque side by side with sweet melancholic reflections on Anglo-Indian death. Much of the text in Ricalton’s guidebook paraphrases passages from the more famous British guidebook Handbook for Travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon, printed by the firm of John Murray but without the stereoscopic photographs that were Ricalton’s specialty. The first edition of Murray’s handbook appeared in 1858, soon after the revolt, and it continued to be updated and released into the 1970s. Tourist handbooks dwell on all kinds of traces of the 1857 war: bullet scars in the walls of churches and British cantonment areas, tombstones of English people killed in the war, bedrooms where certain people’s blood was spilled, now peaceful and nondescript sites (such as a riverbank) that were once scenes of “native” betrayal. The obsession with sights of the Sepoy Revolt in the Murray guidebooks began to wane only in the 1940s, as the empire itself waned.

Ian Baucom, in an insightful reading of this melancholic imperial obsession with loss and death, which animates so many aesthetic projects in colonial India, notes that Murray’s handbook, in its 1924 edition, exhorts the traveler

[to] think, thankfully and proudly, of the events and deeds of that summer of 1857:

Ever the labour of fifty that had to be done by five

Ever the marvel among us that one should be left alive,

Ever the days with its traitorous death from its loopholes around,

Ever the night with its coffinless corpses to be laid in the ground.

Heat like the mouth of a Hell, or a deluge of cataract skies,

Stench of old offal decaying, and infinite torment of flies.29

One must remain thankful for coffinless corpses, the torment of flies, and the stench of old offal decaying, because, as Baucom notes, the English traveler is asked to be thankful for the war itself. The war, including its costs, secures the narrative of native betrayal so central to the continuation of the Raj, and the Mutiny memorials—whose postcard images continued to circulate into the twentieth century (see Figures I.4 and I.5, Plates 1, 2, 3)—simultaneously comfort the colonizers and become reminders to Indian subjects of the imperial wrath that hovers over peacetime as a threatening potentiality. The Mutiny memorial preserves the threat of what Baron von Clausewitz called “Absolute War” (the

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Plate 1. The Angel at the Memorial Well, Cawnpore, 1925. Postcard.

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Plate 2. The Mutiny Memorial on the Ridge, Delhi, 1925. Postcard.

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Plate 3. Colored photograph of Secundrabagh Gate, Lucknow, 1920s. Postcard.

(p.15) disruption of peacetime, the deployment of force) even in the midst of peacetime, which Clausewitz called “Real War,” since “peacetime” is simply the ambiguous suspension of the technologies of Absolute War. So the English traveler must be grateful for these enduring reminders of death, because they are the very ground of attachment and entitlement to the subcontinent, the very proof of the gallantry of English victimhood. Baucom’s reading of the Mutiny memorial’s consecration in the imperial imaginary demonstrates how death was a form of occupation that had to be reproduced and made continuously present, rather than being avoided or its memory properly overcome.30

Like the act of judgment as explained by Husserl, the repetition of visits to Mutiny sites and the reproduction of their images provide opportunities to return to one’s sedimented habits of judgment and to reinforce the attachment to familiar affects and to the familiarity of one’s own self. Rudyard Kipling’s tales consistently return to the melancholic theme of dying in India,31 George Trevelyan’s magisterial account of the revolt, Cawnpore, is haunted by it, and Flora Annie Steel, whose “mutiny novel,” On the Face of the Waters, has become a canonical text on the revolt, circles around the scene of Anglo-Indian death. An 1884 Calcutta Review article comments comically on such an obsession. In a review of William Trego Webb’s poetry, the reviewer writes:

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Figure I.4. Postcard of memorial well at Cawnpore, early twentieth century.

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Figure I.5. The residency at Lucknow where the English were under siege. Postcard, early twentieth century.

As gathered from his verses the career of an Anglo-Indian is a dead round of uninspiring work, carried on under a continual heart-ache for the Homeland, tempered by the fierce excitement of mosquito hunting, and by an endless conflict with indolent punkah-wallahs [fan bearers], and closing dismally in that dreariest of resting places, a Calcutta cemetery. We wish Mr. Webb had been able to keep up his strain of happy banter in treating of the exiled European, instead of falling at once into the dolefullest of “blues.” Here are a few of the titles of “Lyrics,”relating to European life in India:—“Indian Cemeteries,” “The Landslip,” “In Memoriam, Lord Mayo,” “A Himalayan Cemetery,” “The Song of Death,” “The Memorial Well and Gardens, Cawnpore,” “Baby’s Grave,” &c. This dismal list will suffice to show how Mr. Webb’s gaiety deserts him when he leaves punkah-wallahs, pariah-dogs, and mosquitos, and comes to sing of his own countrymen in India. We should have been grateful to Mr. Webb if he could have done anything to lift from our dull lives the depressing weight of seriousness that is over them.32

The reviewer faults the would-be poet for being too true to dull Anglo-Indian lives that already need the depressing weight of seriousness lifted from them. These were lonely wasted lives, in their accounts, often spent recovering from (p.17)

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Figure I.6. Felice Beato, General Nicholson’s Tomb, Viewof Cemetery in Delhi, 1858. The hydrant-shaped tombstonejust behind Nicholson’s grave is for a girl named Jessy Eleanor Blewitt (age three years, ten months).

The Alkazi Collection of Photography.

ill health in thankless and depressing conditions. If Anglo-Indian death marks loss, then the wasted Anglo-Indian life, too, is a kind of loss. This structure of feeling, which secures attachment to the subcontinent by means of loss and traverses literature, historiography, personal memoirs, parliamentary debates, and newspapers, also sets the tone for Indian colonial photography.

Hence the importance of 1857 for this early period of photography in India, whether produced by Anglo-Indians, English visitors, or local photographers such as Lala Deen Dayal. For the Anglo-Indians, mere presence in India implied nostalgia for home, and yet the losses suffered in India gave rise to an intensely wounded attachment to it. Indians, on the other hand, witnessed the princes of the last Mughal emperor killed by the British general William Hodson and the exile to Burma of the last emperor himself, Bahadur Shah Zafar (Figure I.11). The British were infamously ruthless in taking revenge for the violence of the mutineers, and one of the common forms of execution was (p.18)

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Figure I.7. General Havelock’s Tomb, between Cawnporeand Lucknow,1860s.

Photographer unknown. The AlkaziCollection of Photography.

(p.19) to tie the rebels to the mouths of cannons, and fire a cartridge through the bodies, blowing them up in front of their kinsfolk.33 One soldier reports in his memoir: “[General] Havelock asked me if I ‘knew how to blow a man from a gun?’ Naturally this had not formed part of our curriculum at Woolwich; but I had no hesitation in answering in the affirmative,” and the soldier gives a detailed report of singed body parts landing everywhere, of British soldiers covered from head to toe with “minute blackened particles” of Sepoys’ flesh.34 The monuments to British death were matched by the unmarked graves, including mass graves, of Indians. Figure I.9 shows one of the rebel batteries and the ditch where about six hundred bodies were buried. Colonel Francis Maude and John Sherer record, in their account of Lucknow’s siege: “We occupied this post … [and] as I lay there, on the second night, the effluvium from the festering heap of bodies, though they were covered with earth, was so overpowering that I was totally unable to sleep.”35 The major cities involved in the conflict, including Delhi, were reduced to wastelands, and British officers did very little to curb the mass rapes of local women, believing the rumor (which
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Figure I.8. Blowing up a Sepoy rebel with a cannon: “‘Naturally This Had Not Formed Part of Our Curriculum at Woolwich.’”

From Memories of the Mutiny (1894 edition).

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Figure I.9. Felice Beato, battery at Begum Kottee, showing the ditch that was a mass grave, on the left, 1858.

The Alkazi Collection of Photography.

proved false) that mutineers had raped British women.36 As Michael Taussig notes, in any arena in which racial difference plays a part, “it is this very animality that projected onto the racial Other … that is desired and mimicked as sadistic ritual, degradation, and ultimately in genocide against that Other.”37 The mimetic relays across this divide between self and other necessarily reproduce oneself in a phantasmatic relationship to the other, and the recognitions of one’s own sadistic nature only compound the loss of a self that once was. Afterimage of Empire situates photography within a colonial genealogy of mimesis, here understood broadly as a means of bodily engagement with the other, and recognizes it as precondition to building a world. This understanding of mimesis as an originarily bodily phenomenon stems from Adorno and Benjamin’s work, as well as Taussig’s recent elaboration of it.38 It emphasizes not only semblance and copying but also the sensory circuit of stimulus and (p.21) response between the body and the world that is the precondition of all mimetic practices. If aesthetic form is a means of making sense of the world and a kind of habit and habitation, then in the scene of colonial photography in India, loss has necessarily underwritten aesthetic form.

This loss and its attendant nostalgia crystallize in the forms in which photographs have circulated as material objects: private collections composed of individual photographic albums, commercially produced albums, and photographs rendered into line drawings for newspapers. In colonial practice, private albums often included a combination of commissioned portraits and stock reprints of Indian scenes sold by commercial photographic studios, which abounded in Indian capitals such as Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, and Delhi, supplying prints in India as well as to studios in English cities. Some of the most lucrative items for commercial studios were set albums, beautifully bound and produced in multiples, with titles such as Souvenir: The Viceregal Visit to Indore and Souvenirs of Bombay, showing local architectural and landscape sights (see Plate 4). Such labeling reveals the nature of private photographic albums, themselves souvenirs of India, collections of lost moments in the form of images. The photograph as souvenir encapsulates the longing at the heart of colonial photography; like all souvenirs, the photograph seeks to authenticate experience, not by offering up the lost experience itself, which is lost forever, but by marking the distance from it. As Susan Stewart writes:

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Plate 4. Souvenir album cover.

The Alkazi Collection of Photography.

The photograph as souvenir is a logical extension of the pressed flower, the preservation of an instant in time through a reduction of physical dimensions and a corresponding increase in significance supplied by means of narrative. The silence of the photograph, its promise of visual intimacy at the expense of other senses (its glossy surface reflecting us back and refusing us penetration), makes the eruption of that narrative, the telling of its story, all the more poignant. For the narrative of the photograph will itself become an object of nostalgia. Without marking, all ancestors become abstractions, losing their proper names; all family trips become the same trip—the formal garden, the waterfall, the picnic site, and the undifferentiated sea become attributes of every country.39

Like all souvenirs, the photograph is a defense against the inundation of the senses experienced by tourists everywhere, and it becomes a material anchor for a narrative about the past. This explains the photographic habits of tourism: if habit secures a certain map of the world, making it manageable and legible to the senses that would be overwhelmed otherwise, then the touristic photographic shots, sometimes snapped obsessively, become a kind of buffer against such an overload of signification and sensory stimulation

As all photographic albums, including commercial ones, enter private time and the space of the bourgeois interior, the narratives that the owners (p.22)

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Figure I.10. Felice Beato, The Ruins of “Hindoo Rao’s House” (a British post on the Delhi Ridge), 1858. Wellcome Library, London.

of these albums construct around the photographs—traces of which can be found in personal marginalia and revised captions—become central to the buttressing of past experience’s authenticity. Part scrapbook, part photo album, something about privately owned albums resists reproduction in the same way that scrapbooks have affective charge only when the souvenirs they contain are “original”; the reproduction of a scrapbook is necessarily impoverished in comparison to the original.40 So the nostalgia at issue in the private photographic collection that is replete with personal notation and assortments of mementos is nostalgia for origins as well as originality, working against the grain of the reproductive technologies that made the photographic collection possible in the first place. Yet without the photographs and their promise of (p.23)
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Figure I.11. Robert Tytler or Charles Shepherd [previously attributed to P. M. Egerton], The Last Moghul Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Delhi, May 1858.

The AlkaziCollection of Photography.

presence, personal narratives of nostalgia cannot be anchored. At every moment, however, the personal specificity of the photographed threatens to become general; the photograph invokes a lost past and also the disappearing present, which can anchor past signification only temporarily.

As objects of desire, photographs point inevitably toward the past, toward their own origin, which becomes a site of longing and nostalgia, even if the origin is a national or personal wound, as in Felice Beato’s photographs of Lucknow and Robert and Harriet Tytler’s photographs of 1857 sites. Since at the heart of nostalgia’s continuation is the renewal of loss, colonial photographs from India in the nineteenth century, the vast majority of which were produced after 1857, wed colonial melancholia to the structure of loss inherent in souvenirs and photographs in the first place. After the fall of Lucknow, its vibrant courtly culture of dancing courtesans, poets, cockfights, and musicians would become the object of nostalgic longing in India well into the twentieth century, when Bollywood cinema would reinvigorate such nostalgia through films set in courtly times, most notably in Umrao Jaan, released in 1981 and then remade in 2006. Plates 5 and 6, from Darogha Abbas Ali’s album titled Beauties of Lucknow (1874), show the patina of distance that is the true object

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Plate 5. “Abadi,” Courtesan. From Abbas Ali, The Beauties of Lucknow, 1874. “Abadi” means jovial, soothing, charming.

The Alkazi Collection of Photography.

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Plate 6. “Mushteri,” Courtesan. From Abbas Ali, The Beauties of Lucknow, 1874. “Mushteri” was the name of a renowned Lucknow poet and courtesan.

The Alkazi Collection of Photography.

(p.24) of nostalgic desire.41 The truth claim of photography depends on its capture of a trace of an object or person existing in a particular time and place, that is, its indexical nature. It retains a trace of the object simultaneous with the representation of that object.42 Yet what this index points to is not merely the existence of the lost past but also the distance in time between the privatized moment of the photograph’s contemplation and its time of origin. This is the sustaining distance that discredits the present moment and, secondarily, raises alarm at its eventual passing. In the colonies not only is such nostalgia connected to the primary colonial claim to the land, but also the form of private introspection that photographic collections make possible turns nostalgia into the very mode of affective belonging to the colonial space. Regardless of the diverse genres of colonial photography that can be found across a single photographic album—portraiture, landscapes, ethnographic photographs, architectural views, war scenes—this nostalgic turn to the lost past and to the disappearing present subtends all photographic genres.

Such is the work of nostalgia at the level of the photographic medium. In nineteenth-century India, nostalgia also takes the following historically specific forms: a displacement from home, whether caused by moving away from it (as for Anglo-Indians) or caused by epistemic violence (as for Indians); a melancholy attachment to the losses of 1857; and the preservation of the scenes of fading ethnographic purity, as in the photographic examples I discussed earlier. In this book I have sought to analyze those genres of colonial photography in which the historical specificity of loss and nostalgia melds seamlessly with the nostalgia that underwrites photographic practices themselves. The interactions between the nature of the photographic medium and the imprint of history are the primary objects of my study. Hence, two of the following four chapters are devoted to war and memorial photography following the Sepoy Revolt, since this cataclysmic event brings together most forcefully the nature of photographic absence with personal and national loss. The picturesque aesthetic (chapter 3) in the colonies becomes indexical of nostalgia for home, and such nostalgia in turn transforms the nature of this aesthetic itself. Photographs of famine victims, as afterimages of Empire’s splendor, register the quotidian violence and the losses sustained as a result of colonial extraction (chapter 4). Given that my genre selection follows from tracking the intersections between historical loss and the loss that subtends the phenomenology of photography, I do not explore topographical and cartographic photography, photography of imperial durbars, or architectural photography, and I touch on portraiture only briefly in chapter 3.43 It is remarkable how quickly colonial photography sediments into such genres; just years after its invention these generic tendencies became apparent. Mikhail Bakhtin, for whom genres were “organs of memories,”44 notes, “Always preserved in a genre are undying elements of the archaic,” and such archaic elements can be preserved in a genre (p.25) “only thanks to their constant renewal, which is to say, their contemporization.”45 This is to say that generic differences are themselves subject to the vicissitudes of history and are not “natural” forms.46 Since genres exist not only in relation to other genres (which define them) but also in relation to history (which transforms and determines them), the narrative of sensing and meaning making offered by Afterimage of Empire is necessarily relevant to other colonial photographic genres. The particular organs of memory at issue in this book crystallize tendencies of perception, affect, and ideation that emerge out of the specificity of colonial arrangements of perception but also partake of the general transformation in perceptual apparatuses that photography makes possible globally.

Prostheses and Instruments

Thus far I have spoken of general transformations in perception and the arrival of photography in India, without considering the phenomenological scene of photographic practice itself. Keeping the foregoing discussion of the affective, historical, and aesthetic place of colonial photography in mind, we should find it worthwhile to analyze the scene of the photographer and camera and their corollary, the spectator and the photograph, in order to arrive at a more textured understanding of how exactly photography transforms the perceptual apparatus. I read the phenomenology of photography as a phenomenology of sense perception. Take, for example, Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s famous scene of the blind man making his way through the world with a stick. This method of sensing the world becomes, over time, a habit, and the stick itself forces us to reconsider our commonsensical understanding of the body, the senses, and even habit. The body, which Merleau-Ponty dubbed “our anchorage in a world,”47 figures as the ground for the traffic between sensing the world and making sense of it. The camera extends human perception, just as the blind man’s stick does: “The blind man’s stick has ceased to be an object for him, and is no longer perceived for itself; its point has become an area of sensitivity, extending the scope and active radius of touch, and providing a parallel to sight.”48 It is not only an extension of the body, whose materiality proves remarkably supple in its incorporation of objects in the world, but has also become, in effect, a sense organ. It simultaneously points, of course, to the man’s blindness and is therefore not a replacement of sight but provides a parallel experience. Merleau-Ponty shows how bodily perception is not bound by the surface of the given body but often overreaches it: “To get used to a hat, a car or a stick is to be transplanted into them, or conversely, to incorporate them into the bulk of our own body. Habit expresses our power of dilating our being-in-the-world, or changing our existence by appropriating fresh instruments.”49 The woman who is aware of the feather on her hat and comports (p.26) herself in such a way so as not to break it “feels where the feather is just as we feel where our hand is.”50 The nature of our body image is such that it morphs during the course of a day, and historical and technological transformations inevitably make possible new forms of perception and new spaces into which body image and bodily space may extend in unexpected ways. Moreover, not only do we appropriate objects as instruments in order to extend our perception, but also we transplant ourselves into such objects. The stick is both a point of sensitivity (a corollary to a sense organ) and an instrument at hand to be appropriated. This movement between transplanting ourselves into objects and making objects instrumental for our perceptions is left unaddressed by Merleau-Ponty, and we are to assume that these two aspects are indissociable. I suggest below that the camera mediates this movement between points of sensation and instruments, and this is the source of the phenomenological specificity of photography itself. For the time being, I would like to emphasize Merleau-Ponty’s insight that our capacity to perceive the presence of objects in the world can place those objects in the service of such a capacity. The senses are radically open to the world and can overrun the limits imposed on them.

At first sight, the camera would seem to be another instance of the blind man’s cane: it gives us the capacity to see differently, to extend our sight into heretofore unknown spaces, to note the presence of objects in a way unseen before, and so forth. But the camera also radically changes the terms of visibility itself because of the persuasive power of its images. The phenomenology of the photographic image must necessarily account for photography’s persuasive power. As André Bazin notes, “In spite of any objections our critical spirit may offer, we are forced to accept as real the existence of the object in time and space. Photography enjoys a certain advantage in virtue of this transference of reality from the thing to its reproduction.”51 This gets to the heart of photography’s medium specificity, namely, its reality effect. When looking at a photograph we register both the reality of the photograph being “just” a picture in the same instance in which we recognize the reality of the object photographed having been there and then. The materiality of the paper on which the photograph is printed does not interrupt the materiality that we read into the depicted object. Unlike language, which makes description of objects commutable, in other words, the photograph’s reproduction makes the reality of the object itself commutable. To call this effect of photography its “rhetoric” is not to reduce photography to language but to note its power to “bear away our faith,” as Bazin succinctly puts it. As a direct reflection of the material world in the form of light and shade, the photograph comes the closest to Henri Bergson’s definition of “the image” in Matter and Memory (1896): “a certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the idealist calls a thing—an existence placed half-way between the ‘thing’ and the ‘representation.’”52 This definition (p.27) highlights the play of (in)visibility at the heart of photography’s halfway position between the material world of things and the representations that become forms of knowing in an idealist sense, the sense that photography appeals to in its production of truth.

Recall that Merleau-Ponty refers to habit as the means by which we transplant ourselves into objects (turning them into points of sensation) and appropriate objects as instruments. The same object, in our case, the camera, can be both a sense organ of sorts and an instrument. At the pivot between these two aspects of photography lies its rhetorical power. It is photography’s rhetoric, which includes its power to transport us, to lend an aura of truth to the object, to crystallize previously half-known notions, to bear away our faith, that explains the slippage between the two aspects of photography: camera-as-point-of-sensation and camera-as-instrument. The phrase “camera-as-instrument” is meant not to signal the intentions of the photographer, thereby locating the rhetorical power of the medium in a particular person (and, perhaps by extension, in a set of ideologies), but rather to refer to the rhetorical powers of the medium, which is an instrument at hand like the blind man’s stick. Rhetoric, in this reading, marks the point where sensation meets intellection, perception becomes concept, and feeling crystallizes. People can obviously harness this rhetoric for their own ends, but its presence is made possible by the medium itself.

In addition, the photographer and the spectator of the photograph have different relationships to the medium and its rhetorical power. When considering the camera-as-point-of-sensation, we are primarily considering photography at the level of production. At this level of perception, movement, motion, and inhabitation of the world take place for the most part below the threshold of language and consciousness. The composition of the shot, however conscious or unconscious, is the result of certain habits, and habit strides the boundary between consciousness and the unconscious. For the photographer, the photograph is created as an extension of the senses and the body, by incorporating the camera into the bodily field. For the spectator of the photograph, however, incorporating the photograph into his or her bodily field means to be in thrall to photography’s rhetorical effects, which come from the medium itself. Of course both the photographer and the spectator are captivated by photography’s rhetoric, even if the point of production emphasizes sense and the point of reception emphasizes making sense.

History’s Afterimages

What might this classic scene of phenomenological incorporation have to do with colonial representations? How does colonial history enable us to reconsider the phenomenology of the photographic image? An answer to these (p.28) questions becomes possible if one takes seriously Walter Benjamin’s critique of Henri Bergson, which arises in the course of his own speculations on the changes in the nature of modern experience:

[Bergson] rejects any historical determination of memory. He thus manages to stay clear of that experience from which his own philosophy evolved, or, rather, in reaction to which it arose. It was the alienating, blinding experience of the age of large-scale industrialism. In shutting out this experience, the eye perceives a complementary experience—in the form of its spontaneous afterimage, as it were. Bergson’s philosophy represents an attempt to specify this afterimage and fix it as a permanent record.53

Certainly the alienating, blinding experience of large-scale industrialism becomes possible only at the height of colonialism, as the commodity form (itself a play of the visible and invisible, as Marx has shown) becomes the basic unit of global political economy.54 The play of blindness and insight that is the precondition of Bergson’s philosophy reproduces itself in much European thought, including Benjamin’s. If restoring an aspect of historical determination to Bergson’s account of experience and memory is Benjamin’s aim, then traces of such historical determination, however complex or overdetermined, must be borne in mind when considering the transformation of experience under modernity. After all, as Benjamin himself writes in another essay:

Technology … is obviously not a purely scientific development. It is at the same time a historical one…. T he questions that humanity brings to nature are in part conditioned by the level of production. This is the point at which positivism fails. In the development of technology, it was able to see only the progress of natural science, not the concomitant retrogression of society. Positivism overlooked the fact that this development was decisively conditioned by capitalism…. They [positivists] misunderstood the destructive character of this development because they were alienated from the destructive side of dialectics.55

Benjamin sounds a warning here, because to forget the historical determination of our phenomenological experiences is to reify our concepts and misunderstand the processes that make our experience possible. The camera, like all technology, is also a historical artifact, and this basic fact is not a mere addition to analysis; rather, this historical aspect is a catalyst whose implications become clear only when one analyzes distinct photographic practices in the context of their material histories. These histories condition the phenomenology of photography itself, not as mere additive facts, but as generative principles that help us to revise our understanding of photography itself.

So the colonial context is not merely incidental in photography’s early history: documentary photography is produced, at its outset, as a (p.29) documenting of imperial interests (photographer Felice Beato worked alongside Roger Fenton in the Crimean War before arriving in India); the picturesque aesthetic has a longer afterlife in the colonies than it does in Europe; memorial photography from the colonies finds tropes of expression unprecedented in its European forms. Early photography in India is marked by the same spirit of experimentation and wonder that it is marked by elsewhere in the nineteenth century, but with the key addition that its circulation in the colonial economy of signs freights it with meanings not entirely captured by photography’s theorizing within the European frame. In Afterimage of Empire I demonstrate that not only can colonialism be understood through phenomenology and a consideration of perception but also that these categories themselves need to be read in light of colonial history. That photography transformed the nature of aesthetic experience has become a truism at least since Walter Benjamin’s 1936 “Work of Art” essay, but what remains relatively underexplored is the potential, even within the work of Benjamin and the Frankfurt School, for rethinking the relation of bodily sensation to the formation of historically specific lifeworlds.

In this book I am primarily concerned with British colonialist photography, with the exception of the work of the Indian photographers Lala Deen Dayal, Darogha Abbas Ali, and Ahmed Ali Khan, all of whom I discuss briefly in chapter 3. Especially when speaking of colonial discourse, one has an understandable tendency to inquire into the possibility of narratives of resistance on the part of the colonized, in order that current discourse does not represent the colonized as wholly subjugated and victimized. While such a move is theoretically laudable, one must keep in mind several things, including the obvious: at certain moments in history, populations are in fact subjugated and victimized. The question of photography also necessarily takes into account that in the early days of the medium only the upper levels of the indigenous bourgeoisie could afford to commission photographs, and even then the forms and conventions of these photographs were often borrowed from the British aesthetic conventions. An identifiable Indian “counterphotography” does not exist in the first few decades of photographic practice. Here, I take my cue from Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who writes of a similar problematic in another context, the tradition of the nineteenth-century British novel:

Attempts to construct “Third World Woman” as a signifier remind us that the hegemonic definition of literature is itself caught within the history of imperialism. A full literary reinscription cannot easily flourish in the imperialist fracture or discontinuity, covered over by an alien legal system masquerading as Law as such, an alien ideology established as only Truth, and a set of human sciences busy establishing the “native” as self-consolidating (p.30) Other…. For a later period of imperialism—when the constituted colonial subject has firmly taken hold—straightforward experiments of comparison can be taken, say, between the functionally witless India of Mrs. Dalloway, on the one hand, and literary texts produced in India in the 1920s, on the other. But the first half of the nineteenth century resists questioning through literature or literary criticism in the narrow sense, because both are implicated in the project of producing Ariel. To reopen the fracture without succumbing to a nostalgia for lost origins, the literary critic must turn to the archives of imperial governance.56

Likewise, early photography in India is imbricated in specifically imperialist representational terrain and is in fact less flexible than literature as a system of representation, since its relatively pricey technology during this early period severely restricts its usage by most Indians. There was, however, a vibrant photographic tradition among the elite. In chapter 3 I develop a variegated notion of mimesis through which the colonial difference of nineteenth-century Indian photographers may be read, on the one hand, as successful repetitions-with-a-difference of European aesthetic traditions and, on the other hand, as local differences of aesthetic form that are commensurate with regional aesthetic differences that can also be traced in England and France themselves in the early days of photography. Aesthetic differences of nineteenth-century Indian photographers are marks of both the local and the particular, but they also index global transformations in perception; as such these local differences are not grounds for “contestation” or “resistance” to metropolitan aesthetic forms but rather evidence of an intricate relation between the local and the global, the particular and the universal. Contestation in the realm of photography would not take place until the twentieth century, with the concomitant rise of nationalist movements as well as a cheaper and more mobile photographic technology. In Christopher Pinney’s study of Indian photography, it is instructive that his most thorough elaboration of what he calls Camera Indica is located in the twentieth century, and Kajri Jain’s finely textured notion of the “vernacular” in Indian calendar art depends predominantly on twentieth-century calendar production.57 If in the study of literature, the representational and epistemological orbit of the novel in the early nineteenth century is bound by imperialism and the literary critic must turn to the archives of imperial governance if she or he is to reopen the fracture of colonialism, then in the study of early photography uses of the camera in India are similarly overdetermined by imperialism, and to reopen the fracture in this instance would require an inquiry into local representational practices outside photography as well as the archives of imperial governance. The arguments presented in chapters 1 and 3 conduct such an inquiry by (p.31) analyzing, in part, subaltern forms of communication one the one hand and elite Indian photographic practice on the other.

While attention to local forms of representation is necessary so that one does not end up reproducing the dominative aspects of colonial discourse, colonial discourse analysis, for all its insight, often arrives at a repeated set of conclusions that almost come to resemble traumatic repetition. The archive or particular instance may change, but the roles for the cast of characters seem foretold. Of course, history has already demonstrated these roles. Ann Stoler’s recent work, which shows that colonial authority does not operate according to a predetermined grand plan but is better understood as a series of ad hoc, haphazard, and reactive policies, is a welcome corrective to some of the predictability of colonial discourse analysis.58 Still, certain facts remain indisputable: colonialism subjugates, breaks up local forms of affiliation, constitutes epistemic ruptures within the local order of things, pillages raw materials, makes profit for the metropole. In a certain sense, as Benjamin would remind us, the real catastrophe is that the cast of rulers has not stopped winning. Colonial discourse analysis is most valuable when read as a reminder of this historical fact.

The present work is deeply indebted to this line of thinking, as I hope I have made clear. Where it departs from Saidian-derived readings is in its attempt to provide a narrative of colonial representations that is noniconophobic. Iconophobia takes the following form in postcolonial discourse: all colonial representation is to be mistrusted, and the work of analysis reveals the horror that the representation sought to cover up. This book aims to respond, in part, to a question recently posed by Rey Chow in her study of Chinese film: Given one’s sympathy with anti-orientalist reading practices and the limits of such practices, “is it at all possible to conceive of a noniconophobic way of handling social and visual relationships?”59 An iconophobic reading of colonial representations would reveal the import of these representations as revelatory of the cultural labor of domination, a meaning covered over by the representation but simultaneously made possible by the traces of the “real” within it. Syed Ahmed Khan’s letter from London, in its paradoxical affirmation and negation of colonial forms of knowing, has already shown that such neat assumptions regarding the dominative aspects of colonial representations, though they may be propelled by theoretical inertia, often do not prove useful when analyzing the fragmentary and contradictory archives of colonialism.

Even in the practice of “reading against the grain,” or what Said more poetically called “contrapuntal reading practice,” the aim is to make visible, for example, the colonial underpinnings of Austen’s and Conrad’s “consolidated vision,” that is, to pierce the surface of the representation in order to elucidate its depths, to distrust representation in order to provide an account of (p.32) its supposedly actual underpinnings.60 This form of critique that seeks to demythify and to present the real behind the representation relies on familiar Platonic notions of mimesis. It also assumes an Archimedean point outside the representation itself, when in fact both the representation at issue and its critique are made possible by the mimetic faculty, the capacity that underwrites worlding itself. The fact is that our categories of analysis by which we seek to apprehend our objects of study necessarily share the same mimetic ground with those objects. Instead of assuming a point outside the illusionistic realm of representation, my noniconophobic reading of colonial photography seeks to work against notions of surface and depth, by reading “surfaces” and “appearances” as themselves constitutive of critique. By analyzing the cultural work done by the photograph itself (at its very surface), we gain insight into the sensory conditions of possibility that render things visible, and these conditions do not preexist the appearance but are commensurate with it. Moreover, in colonial discourse analysis representation is curiously divorced from embodiment and is abstracted as pure conception, when in fact to be confronted with representation already assumes a bodily engagement with it; Afterimage of Empire concerns itself with the ways in which images penetrate bodily space and how bodies incorporate themselves into images. Hence, much more can be said about colonial photographs than their imbrication in colonial forms of violence. This is not to minimize that violence, which I take up explicitly in chapters 2 and 4, but to attempt an accounting of the conditions under which it becomes possible.

Since one of the guiding threads in this book is the question of persuasion—of how we can be so consummately persuaded by photographs—chapter 1, “Death and the Rhetoric of Photography: X Marks the Spot” takes up this question directly. From its inception, photography promised that the event depicted by the camera actually took place. That is, the image stood for an indexical trace of the object. Chapter 1 concerns the work of the post–Sepoy Revolt photographers John Dannenberg and Harriet Tytler and analyzes photographs that memorialize the death of important British army officers by showing the literal places where generals and officials were believed to have fallen dead or where British civilians were killed. The chapter also considers photographs taken of allegorical drawings rendered by anonymous artists seeking to memorialize the significant loss of British lives during the conflict. The contemporaneous descriptions of these photographed drawings insist on their photographic quality, thereby investing the drawings with the realist and evidential authority of the photograph. The concern with truth in this subgenre of documentary photography that seeks to make visible the very space of death is an occasion, in chapter 1, for unpacking the notion of the photographic index. Indexical notions of truth haunt memorial photography as well as drawings and sketches that often use photographic backgrounds, as in the work of John (p.33) Dannenberg. These photographic practices have to be read alongside two other contemporaneous phenomena: rumor and bodily and religious forms of contamination. Examining the circulation of rumors and notions of contagion on both sides of the colonial divide, I argue that photography as rhetoric has the logic of the circulation of rumor, and in the context of the Sepoy Revolt it secures the certainty of the friend/enemy divide. The photographic index, moreover, needs to be read as a kind of allegorical sign whose truth renews itself in light of the historical and material conditions in which it is read. This is the source of its power as the ground for truth: the photographic index cuts across varying representational registers, since it is simultaneously a material trace, an allegorical sign, and an empty pointer that in itself cannot provide the object that it promises.

In chapter 2, “Anaesthesis and Violence: A Colonial History of Shock,” I situate the rhetoric of photography in the context of Benjamin’s theory of shock and modern experience. This chapter analyzes documentary photography in the wake of the Sepoy Revolt of 1857 through a reading of the work of photographer Felice Beato, a commercial photographer who produced some of the first documentary photographs during the Crimean War and the aftermath of the Sepoy Revolt. Beato produced a series of photographs documenting the major sites of the Sepoy Revolt, sometimes exhuming corpses of the native dead in order to pose them among architectural ruins, all for the sake of presenting the immediacy of battle. Beato’s projects in India seek, belatedly, to recapture time, even if that means restaging it. Such a project is congruent with the aims of much anthropological photography in India, which also strives to capture forms of life that colonialism/modernization gradually makes extinct. Both projects arise out of the epistemic and literal violence that lies at the heart of colonialism and, in a certain sense, are direct and indirect engagements with such violence. This chapter explores the implications of modernity’s bodily shock effects in the colonial arena, where reassuring spectacles of the violence done to the other (the colonized in this case) mirror the perverse and numbing enjoyment in imagining one’s own destruction. At stake in these early documentary photographs is the management of others through the same strategies that enable domination over one’s own sensory existence.

The third chapter, “Armor and Aesthesis: The Picturesque in Difference,” continues the concern with sensory management in the context of landscape photography. The chapter analyzes Samuel Bourne’s photography alongside the work of the Indian photographers Deen Dayal, Abbas Ali, and Ahmed Ali Khan. All of the photographers, including Bourne, are contending with a shifting representational terrain, and their aesthetic choices have much to teach us about the differential nature of mimesis itself. Abbas Ali and Khan represent transitional aesthetic strategies insofar as they look to local tradition and (p.34) Mughal miniatures in their photographic practice, and Dayal is invested in assimilating the conventions of the picturesque. Their varying aesthetic impulses reveal the stress and pressure that signifying systems undergo at times of historical change. In the landscape photographs by Samuel Bourne, mimesis—as a reflection not only of the object but also of the feelings that the object has provoked—is inextricable from visual pleasure. The pleasure of the picturesque, rather than the terror of the sublime, converts difference into the familiar, the experiential into a recognizable image. Because the picturesque aesthetic in the colonies overlays the foreign with the familiar, I read this genre of photography as a subjective engagement with objective structures of colonial extraction. In this chapter I make the case that the picturesque aesthetic marks a modernizing point of view for which the conversion of experience into an image serves a compensatory function; the conversion of the foreign into the familiar takes place at the level of aesthetic form, and this form is at the same time a kind of armor, a second skin that enables and inhibits perception. Such a production of a second skin through aesthetic form occurs both at the level of composition and at the level of reception.

The fourth chapter, “Famine and the Reproduction of Affect: Pleas for Sympathy,” focuses on photography in the context of the multiple famines across the Indian subcontinent in the late nineteenth century. Reading Adam Smith’s eighteenth-century notion of sympathy in The Theory of Moral Sentiments through the nineteenth-century circulation of W. W. Hooper’s famous photographs from the Madras famine of 1876–79 in conjunction with the various pleas for sympathy in the popular British and Indian press, I examine how sympathy as an affect enters the domain of technological reproducibility and the slippery nature of the photographic medium with respect to sympathetic feeling. Such pleas for sympathy continue to animate our own contemporary appeals to pity for the other. The sentiments that images of social suffering arouse, if understood through Smith’s formulation of sympathy, reveal not only the deeper representational conundrums that all projects of “awareness raising” face with respect to their subjects but also the unpredictable nature of photography’s own sympathetic mimesis.

That the formation of the senses is a political matter has been clear at least since Marx’s remarks on the education of the senses. This book explores the politics of such formation; in order to do so, it deploys phenomenology itself like the blind man’s stick, prodding a nearly invisible colonial terrain. The historical specificities of photography’s phenomenology in colonial India are indispensable to my aims in this book. Since we have always lived in history, this project is necessarily historical, but history enters the frame as the set of elements that make meaning and sensation possible, rather than as a (historicist) chain of causes and effects. I am interested in tracking tendencies in colonial photography that reveal its imbrication in the aesthetic and political (p.35) dimensions of the photographic medium and in examining the nature of sentient experience as constituted through the practice of photography. The readings that follow deliberately shuttle from historical fact to its philosophical implications, from forms of aesthetic expression to the sensory arrangements they presume, rather than offering an overarching historical narrative either of photographic practice in India or of the progression and development of its dominant aesthetic forms.61 Thus, in a discussion of photography’s rhetoric in chapter 1, the historically specific cases of rumors and threats of contagion are central to understanding the photographs that arise from the aftermath of the Sepoy Revolt; chapter 2 dwells on the effects of war and the lessons that photography’s engagement with these effects can teach us; in chapter 3, history takes the form of interventions in the colonial landscape that render it picturesque—it is condensed in the picturesque aesthetic itself and in the colonially different reception of that same aesthetic for Indian photographers; chapter 4 ponders the manifestation of photographic affect in light of actually existing famines. These historical aspects—rumor, contagion, the picturesque, war, famine—are, as we will see, necessarily aspects of photography itself, since photographic practice is one process by which some people make sense of these specific historical experiences. Not only does Afterimage of Empire concern itself with the practices of making sense, but also it refers to “the composing sense,” or the mimetic faculty, the capacity that underwrites the means by which experience becomes commutable, framed, and transmuted.


(1.) As Malcolm MacDougall writes, “Meaning is produced by our whole bodies, not just by conscious thought. We see with our bodies, and any image we make carries the imprint of our bodies; that is to say, of our being as well as the meanings we intend to convey.” MacDougall, The Corporeal Image, 3.

(2.) Marx and Engels, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist Manifesto, 109, translation modified.

(3.) Graham, The Life and Work of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, 188–89.

(4.) Allygurgh Institute Gazette, December 23, 1869.

(5.) For a recent and subtle discussion of the colonial archive, see Arondekar, For the Record.

(6.) Work on colonial discourse analysis is extensive, and some of the most astute examples of this line of thinking include Timothy Mitchell, Gyan Prakash, Anne McClintock, Zeynep Celik, and Paul Greenhalgh.

(7.) The following works on colonial photography show both the insight and limit of this line of thinking. See Hight and Sampson, Colonialist Photography; Maxwell, Colonial Photography and Exhibitions; and Edwards, Raw Histories.

(8.) For an alternate critique of this strand of postcolonial thought, see Dutta, The Bureaucracy of Beauty, 9–16.

(9.) Taylor and Great Britain, India Office, The People of India, i.

(10.) Pinney discusses at length the Indian-owned photographic studios of the nineteenth century, which sustained their business by making photographic portraits in fairly conventional forms borrowed from the British portraiture tradition. See Pinney, Camera Indica, 72–107.

(11.) Dobson, quoted ibid., 46.

(12.) Risley and Crooke, The People of India, Plate XX.

(15.) Anderson, Imagined Communities, 182–83.

(16.) Ibid., 184–85. Anderson is concerned with the production of the state-form under colonialism, a form that the postcolonial nation inherits, often without significant change in the geography, forms of local “heritage,” and the systematic quantifications of the racial, ethnic, and religious contours of the population.

(17.) Benjamin, Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, vol. 2: 1927–1934, 328.

(18.) Barthes refers to the “punctum” as that element of a photograph that pierces the viewer, undoing both the scene of the photograph and the scene of viewing; Kracauer and Benjamin are interested in the spark of contingency in the photograph that is made possible only through a dialectic between the moment frozen in the frame and the moment of viewing. See, respectively, Barthes, Camera Lucida; Kracauer, The Mass Ornament; and Benjamin, Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, vol. 2, “A Short History of Photography.”

(19.) “It is through the camera that we first discover the optical unconscious, just as we discover the instinctual unconscious through psychoanalysis.” Benjamin, Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, vol. 4: 1938–1940, 266.

(20.) This is as opposed to concepts preceding the object. Benjamin’s approach is properly materialist and phenomenological.

(21.) Merleau-Ponty and Lefort, The Visible and the Invisible, 254, translation modified. In the original, “L’intouchable, ce n’est pas un touchable en fait inaccessible,—l’inconscient, ce n’est pas une representation en fait inaccessible. Le négatif n’est pas un positif qui est ailleurs (un transcendant)—C’est un vrai négatif.” Merleau-Ponty and Lefort, Le visible et l’invisible, 307–8.

(22.) In an essay on Cézanne, Merleau-Ponty himself notes that looking through the camera means seeing a world whose subjective determination differs from the world we experience with the naked eye. He provides the example of a train, which, in a film, appears to approach and get bigger more rapidly than it would if seen without the camera’s lens. The camera accentuates objective geometric relations among objects, relations that are not often visible to the naked eye: “To say that a circle seen obliquely is seen as an ellipse is to substitute for our actual perception what we would see if we were cameras: in reality we see a form which oscillates around the ellipse without being an ellipse.” Merleau-Ponty, Sense and Non-Sense, 14. Also see Merleau-Ponty, The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader, “Eye and Mind.”

(23.) Husserl, The Essential Husserl, 308.

(24.) Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 167.

(25.) For the best account of aisthsis in its Greek usage, see Heller-Roazen, The Inner Touch. Also see Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic.

(26.) The composite account I give here is based on the following: Trevelyan, Cawnpore; Shepherd, A Personal Narrative of the Outbreak and Massacre at Cawnpore; Thomson, The Story of Cawnpore; and A. Ward, Our Bones Are Scattered.

(27.) Trevelyan, Cawnpore, 229.

(28.) See Bernard Cohn’s essay, “Representing Authority in Victorian India” in Cohn, An Anthropologist among the Historians and Other Essays. Ian Baucom notes, “In these acts of pilgrimage, the map of India was revealed not only as an instrument and product of war but as an artifact which, in wedding the emergent practices of tourism to the discourses of cartography and war, determined that the traveler in India was always the student of an imperial narrative of loyalty and betrayal.” Baucom, Out of Place, 107.

(29.) Quoted ibid., 110.

(30.) Ibid., 101–35. For a corollary argument, also see Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness, “The Well at Cawnpore: Literary Representations of the Indian Mutiny,” 199–226.

(31.) This theme is widespread in Kipling’s stories, but especially foregrounded in “On the City Walls,” “William the Conqueror,” and “The Little House at Arrah.” See chapter 4 in Arondekar, For the Record, 131–69. Also see Chakravarty, The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination.

(32.) Calcutta Review (University of Calcutta, 1884), iv–v.

(33.) One eyewitness writes, “With merciless justice, the ten men were fastened to the muzzles of ten guns, which were charged with blank cartridge. The commanding officer directed the potfires to be lit. ‘Ready! Fire!’ and the drama was played out. The limbs of the slaughtered rebels were scattered, in all directions; their blood lay in one great pool under the cannon’s mouth; and as the natives looked upon the scene, they ‘not only shivered like aspen leaves, but changed into unnatural hues.’

“A lady, writing from Ferozepore, says: —‘All the servants were compelled to witness the horrid scene; and though I naturally recoiled from the relation of it, one of my bearers insisted on giving a description to me in English, and said, ‘Oh, mem-sahib, plenty of most fell on my shoulder—one man’s leg!’ I declined to hear the rest. Well were it if the mutiny then smouldering in other stations had also been suppressed by the blowing of ten men from the cannon’s mouth, and the falling of a black man’s leg upon a black man’s shoulder. We were not always to get off so easy—nor were they.” Narrative of the Indian revolt from its outbreak to the capture of Lucknow, 35.

(34.) Maude and Sherer, Memories of the Mutiny, vol. 1, 273.

(35.) Ibid., vol. 2, 467.

(36.) Dalrymple, The Last Mughal, 427. Sherer and Maude also record the particular brutality of Major Renaud: “In the first two days of our march towards Cawnpore we passed several dead bodies hanging from trees near the road. These had been executed by Renaud’s men, presumably for complicity in the Mutiny; but I am afraid some innocent men suffered, for a comrade who ought to know says that ‘Renaud was rather inclined to hang all black creation.’ In every case, where the feet were near the ground, pigs (either wild or belonging to the villagers) had eaten the lower part of the bodies; the stench from the latter, in the moist still air, being intolerable.” Maude and Sherer, Memories of the Mutiny, vol. 1, 41.

(37.) Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity, 67.

(38.) See ibid.

(39.) Stewart, On Longing, 138.

(41.) In Susan Stewart’s words, “The nostalgic is enamored of distance, not of the referent itself.” Ibid., 145. See chapter 3 for a discussion of Darogha Abbas Ali.

(42.) A detailed analysis of the photographic index will be presented in chapter 2.

(43.) No doubt these genres, too, demonstrate aspects of loss, but a too capacious understanding of loss renders the term meaningless.

(44.) Quoted in Morson and Emerson, Mikhail Bakhtin, 280.

(45.) Ibid., 106.

(46.) Also see Jameson, The Political Unconscious, 133–35. Given that genres are organs of memory, it makes sense that some early photographic genres relied on pictorial (p.208) tendencies inherited from painting and drama: staged historical scenes, mythological themes, still lifes, portraiture, etc.

(47.) Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 167.

(48.) Ibid., 165. Gayle Salamon provides an innovative reading of this passage in Merleau-Ponty, in the context of racialized/colonized bodies. See Salamon, “‘The Place Where Life Hides Away.’”

(49.) Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 166.

(50.) Ibid., 165.

(51.) Bazin, “The Ontology of the Photographic Image,” 7–8.

(52.) Bergson, Matter and Memory, ix.

(53.) Benjamin, Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, vol. 2, 314.

(54.) For analyses of the photographic metaphor in Benjamin’s critique of Bergson, see Marder, Dead Time, “Flat Death: Snapshots of History,” 68–87. Also see Cadava, Words of Light, “Matter,” 87–92.

(55.) This extract is from Benjamin, Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, vol. 3: 1935–1938, “Eduard Fuchs,” 266.

(56.) Spivak, “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism,” 254.

(57.) Of course, Jain discusses the roots of Indian calendar art in the later nineteenth century, but her analysis of the vernacular focuses on the twentieth century. See Jain, Gods in the Bazaar. Interestingly, accounts of colonial photography in other colonial contexts also locate local differences of photographic practice in the twentieth century. See, among others, Gabara, Errant Modernism; Strassler, Refracted Visions; Lydon, Eye Contact; and Poole, Vision, Race, and Modernity.

(58.) See Stoler, Along the Archival Grain. Stoler’s conclusions bear out Lenin’s remarks in his 1917 work on imperialism, in which he argues precisely for the discontinuous and disorganized means by which imperialism functions. See Lenin, Imperialism.

(59.) Chow, Sentimental Fabulations, Contemporary Chinese Films, 148.

(60.) See Said, Culture and Imperialism, “Consolidated Vision.”

(61.) Such histories have already been written with great rigor. See Dehejia, India through the Lens; Desmond and Great Britain, India office, Library, Victorian India in Focus; Gutman and International Center of Photography, Through Indian Eyes; Ollman, Samuel Bourne; Pinney, The Coming of Photography in India; Pinney, Camera Indica; and Ryan, Picturing Empire. For an account of colonial Indian spectacle, see Mathur, India by Design.