CIHA 2016 in Beijing
34th World Congress of Art HistoryAbout History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed
In a Land of Death and Disease: Epidemiological Landscapes and Photography in Colonial Bombay
Session 11 Landscape and Spectacle
University of California, Berkeley
Situating photographs of the 1896 bubonic plague epidemic in India within histories of landscape photography and imperial science, my paper proposes an epistemological shift in our reading of colonial visual culture. In the past, the interrelation between nature and culture in the visual practices of British imperialism has largely been understood in terms that privilege human activity. While landscapes of India by British artists were certainly inscribed within colonial visual and literary arrangements, I suggest that colonial cultural production was simultaneously embedded in social and biophysical networks thatbrought together artistic practices and the materiality of the natural environment. In this paper, I argue that colonial photographs of the epidemiological landscape bear traces of the material operations of non-human forcessuch as germs, water, and air. A close reading of the photographs of the 1896 bubonic plague epidemic reveal that the natural environment left a material imprint on images, demonstrating that matter, far from being a static and inert substance, possesses the agentive capacity to effect and even disrupt image-making practices.
Shivani Sudis a PhD student in the History of Art Department at the University of California, Berkeley, specializing in the visual cultures of colonial and modern South Asia.Sud’sPhD dissertation focuses onthe global histories of“miniature” paintingin late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Jaipur, a key center of art experimentations in colonial India. Her other research interests focus on colonial photography and histories of collecting in South Asia and its diaspora, including the collecting of East Asian and European art in India. Sud’sresearch has been supported by fellowships such as the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Fellowship, the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, the Maharaja Kaul Memorial Grant, and the Getty Multicultural Curatorial Internship. Shehas also worked with museums such as the Santa Monica Museum of Art and the Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.Sud received a BA in Art History from UCLA in 2012.