POSTPONED - Violent Images: Visual Culture and Imperialism in China, c.1860-1927

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Thursday 22 November
Room 108, Medecroft, Medecroft Quarter, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR

This talk is part of the Modern History Research Centre series and will be delivered by Dr Stephen McDowall from the University of Edinburgh.

European accounts of the ‘backwardness’ of China and its customs were a staple of the nineteenth century, eventually becoming a key part of Western powers’ justifications for colonial interference in that country. As the century progressed, the photograph became inextricably linked to European imperial agendas, with visual depictions of practices such as footbinding adding weight to European claims to moral superiority over the Chinese.

The strange Western fascination with photographs of Chinese death seems to be both a part of this process and a step removed from it. In this paper I will introduce several such images, and argue that their materiality – that is, the various ways in which they were viewed, purchased, collected, inscribed, circulated, displayed, and archived – forces us to rethink their place in the Sino-Western encounter, and to place them in the context of a longer European tradition of violence as public spectacle.

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