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Probing “Presence”: Photography and Policing in Colonial South Africa

February 23, 2016 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm


Lorena Rizzo (University of Bielefeld & Harvard University)

Probing “Presence” – Photography and Policing in Colonial South Africa

The presentation starts from research conducted in the Western Cape Archives in 2012/3. While working on a collection of photographic albums produced in a Cape Town convict station in the late 19th and early 20th century, I came across a pair of photographs portraying a convict who bore my surname. I use this archival coincidence or curiosity as an entry point into a methodological and theoretical discussion of the status of photography as a historical source and its appeal as a medium to genealogical research and memory studies. While revisiting some of the classical texts on photography, among them Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida, this paper focuses on Eelco Runia’s notion of “presence.” In sum, it examines some of the ways in which historical photographs resonate with contemporary negotiations of the past in South Africa.


The talk is sponsored by the IHC’s African Studies Research Focus Group, History (Research Cluster Empires, Borderlands, and their Legacies), History of Art and Architecture, Film and Media Studies.

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