The Portrait and the Colonial Imaginary
Photography between France and Africa, 1900-1939
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Monograph - paperback
study of portraiture in the colonial imaginary
French colonisers of the Third Republic claimed not to oppress but to liberate, imagining they were spreading republican ideals to the colonies to make a Greater France. In this book Simon Dell explores the various roles played by portraiture in this colonial imaginary.
Anyone interested in the history of colonial Africa will have encountered innumerable portraits of African elites produced during the first half of the twentieth century, yet no book to date has focused on these ubiquitous images. Dell analyses the production and dissemination of such portraits and situates them in a complex and conflicted field of representations.
Moving between European and African perspectives, The Portrait and the Colonial Imaginary blends history with art history to provide insights into the larger processes that were transforming the French metropole and colonies during the early twentieth century.
This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).
1. Making men
A new humanity
2. Perception, apperception and disavowal
Gide’s queer disposition
3. Staging, actors and audiences
Extraversion and representation
Format: Monograph - paperback
Size: 230 × 170 × 17 mm
Publication: February 26, 2020
Stock item number: 133795
Dell offers a new and very useful analysis of the complicated interrelationship between France, African colonies, and photography during the years between 1900 and 1930—a moment when the “French empire” was at its strongest. Most importantly, he recognizes that there are many kinds of colonizing gazes, and he analyzes in depth three case studies to tease out the differences. Kim Sichel, The Journal of Modern History 2023 95:2, 474-475, https://doi.org/10.1086/724605
Matthias Waechter, Historische Zeitschrift, 2021, Volume 312 Issue 1, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/hzhz-2021-1063
Situating his study within the move to take art history beyond Eurocentrism and into the field of world art studies, Simon Dell works persuasively across historiography, literary criticism, and, centrally, visual analysis. Drawing inspiration from Levinas’s reflection on the ethics of encounter, he foregrounds the place of the photographic medium, both in the construction of the colonial narrative and as appropriated or resisted by African leaders contending with imperial hegemony. Dell explains how its European provenance meant that the photographic portrait was never a neutral medium in the colonial context. [...] Throughout this important book, Dell’s deft, studied sequencing of visual material provides illuminating points of access to a wider historical narrative.
Edward J Hughes, French Studies, December 2020, https://doi.org/10.1093/fs/knaa243
... un livre très fouillé du professeur Simon Dell sur cinq séries de portraits photographiques entre France et Afrique (principalement le Cameroun) entre 1900 et 1939 [...] Pour chaque série, l’auteur fait une analyse argumentée, très détaillée, quasi « entomologique », des écrits et des images, naviguant entre théorie de philosophie politique et analyse iconographique détaillée.
Marc Lenot, 31 Août 2020, Lunettes Rouges