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    Photographic histories of postcolonial India: the politics of seeing (and unseeing)

    Desai, Krupa Chandrakant (2022) Photographic histories of postcolonial India: the politics of seeing (and unseeing). PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    The postcolonial momentum around nation-building, along with the transnational sentiment on decolonisation and development ensured a rhizomatic use of the photographic medium in India in the 1950s and 1960s. Considering the enormous production and dissemination of repetitive, mundane and largely unspectacular official photographs in state archives, and national and transnational bureaucratic networks, this dissertation is a focused study of the photographic vision of the postcolonial state. At a time when the nation was riding high on utopian futuristic aspirations, curating and managing ‘optics’ was central to the formation of the new nation and the consolidation of the postcolonial state. To add to this, an increasingly insecure Cold-War context and an emerging transnational network formed by seeing (and hiding from) each other, constantly interrupted and constituted the state’s optical frame. The chapters explore photography as an expansive medium beyond the photograph-photographer binary and attempt to write histories situated in the functional presence of photography within the exhibition space, in official albums and archives and diplomatic exchange. In doing so, the dissertation interrogates the postcolonial state’s caste-blind modernity and displacement-led development from a critical subaltern lens, puncturing official projections which have had the power to dictate the optics of inclusion and exclusion. This dissertation argues that there is value in complicating photography's relationship to seeing, deconstructing its evidentiary potential and questioning photographs as historical knowledge, to write a history of seeing and unseeing through the photographic medium. This dissertation contributes to postcolonial writing, photographic histories and visual culture studies, by attempting to reformulate our ways of seeing and unseeing through the ‘language of rights’, thereby asking questions about knowledge and power embedded into the photographic vision.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2022 12:54
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:45


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