We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Afterimage of Empire

Photography in Nineteenth-Century India

Zahid R. Chaudhary

Publication Year: 2012

Afterimage of Empire provides a philosophical and historical account of early photography in India that focuses on how aesthetic experiments in colonial photography changed the nature of perception. Considering photographs from the Sepoy Revolt of 1857 along with landscape, portraiture, and famine photography, Zahid R. Chaudhary explores larger issues of truth, memory, and embodiment.

Chaudhary scrutinizes the colonial context to understand the production of sense itself, proposing a new theory of interpreting the historical difference of aesthetic forms. In rereading colonial photographic images, he shows how the histories of colonialism became aesthetically, mimetically, and perceptually generative. He suggests that photography arrived in India not only as a technology of the colonial state but also as an instrument that eventually extended and transformed sight for photographers and the body politic, both British and Indian.

Ultimately, Afterimage of Empire uncovers what the colonial history of the medium of photography can teach us about the making of the modern perceptual apparatus, the transformation of aesthetic experience, and the linkages between perception and meaning.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (400.4 KB)
pp. 1-9


pdf iconDownload PDF (263.8 KB)
p. ix-ix

read more

Introduction: Sensation and Photography

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.3 MB)
pp. 1-36

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 ...

read more

One. Death and the Rhetoric of Photography: X Marks the Spot

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 37-72

Harriet Tytler, who, along with her husband, Robert, photographed many sites of the Sepoy Revolt, was born in India but, like many others, thought of herself as a foreigner to it. Yet as a small child (“a little over two years old”), when her mother was about to depart, leaving her in the care of her aunt and uncle, Tytler exclaimed to her mother, “Hum janta mamma chulla gia, chulla ...

read more

Two. Anaesthesis and Violence: A Colonial History of Shock

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.7 MB)
pp. 73-106

You are looking at another photograph from the Sepoy Revolt of 1857–58 (Figure 2.1). The massive building confronting us and extending offframe to the left is still imposing in its ruin, and it takes a blink of the eye to discern the litter of shattered skulls, decomposing bodies, and skeletons—only one complete—that extends into the space where a camera and now we ...

read more

Three. Armor and Aesthesis: The Picturesque in Difference

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.9 MB)
pp. 107-152

We are leaving the scenes of 1857-58, and in this chapter I extend the discussion of anaesthesis in the context of the entirely different genre of landscape photography. Because the Sepoy Revolt continued to resonate in British India into the twentieth century, the arrangements of perception and meaning making explored in the previous chapters on the photography of the ...

read more

Four. Famine and the Reproduction of Affect: Pleas for Sympathy

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.5 MB)
pp. 153-188

In my account thus far, the question of faith keeps returning in various forms: our faith in the indexical truth of the photograph, in rumor, in aesthetic form, and in Felice Beato’s case, in the veracity of historical violence. Of course, the punishment that General Neill meted out to Brahmins, by making them clean up the blood of their co-conspirators before executing them, must violate ...

read more

CODA: Sensing the Past

pdf iconDownload PDF (139.7 KB)
pp. 189-195

The past increasingly leaves its traces on our bodies in the form of images, and as Spinoza reminds us, we experience such traces as simultaneous with ourselves. Photography crystallizes some of these traces, and while it transforms our senses of truth, memory, and experience, it also relies upon and molds our affective capacities. Photographs are necessarily images of ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (74.0 KB)
pp. 197-200

This book began with a conversation with Finbarr Barry Flood about Felice Beato’s famous photograph from Sikanderbagh. The conversation snowballed into a graduate seminar paper for Natalie Melas and Susan Buck-Morss, both of whom kindly allowed me to submit the same paper for their seminars, thereby giving me the time to conduct extensive research and to fall under the ...

Appendix: Translations

pdf iconDownload PDF (98.7 KB)
pp. 201-203


pdf iconDownload PDF (283.5 KB)
pp. 205-233


pdf iconDownload PDF (140.4 KB)
pp. 235-246

Index [Includes Image Plates]

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.4 MB)
pp. 247-271

E-ISBN-13: 9780816679508
E-ISBN-10: 0816679509
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816677498

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012