Fall 2023 Middle East GR6625 section 001

Camera in the Tropics

Call Number 10667
Day & Time
R 2:10pm-4:00pm
SCHIFF Earl Hall
Points 4
Grading Mode Standard
Approvals Required None
Instructor Debashree Mukherjee
Method of Instruction In-Person
Course Description


This graduate seminar situates the history of photography within the history of colonial productions of tropicality, and the concomitant occupation of tropical places. Specific regimes of vision accompanied the European conquest of peoples and lands, undergirded the racialization of bodies, and colluded in epistemic binaries of centers and peripheries. At the same time, modern visual media did not possess an intrinsically “colonial gaze.” Rather, many of the same apparatuses of seeing and representation proved to be powerful tools in the assertion of minoritized selves, be it in fugitive , playful, or explicitly confrontational forms. Our focus will be on 19th -20th century lens-based image production, particularly photography. Each week we will acquaint ourselves with concepts and methods that will help us read images, situate current decolonial debates in visual studies within older foundational debates on vision and visuality, and read key texts in historiography. Weekly readings are curated as per a spatial logic, retracing the itineraries of colonial adventurism and control: from the ship to the island, the plantation, the prison, and the laboratory. This seminar is designed mainly for doctoral students; Masters students can join with instructor permission.


• Familiarity with foundational debates in photography studies.

• Ability to articulate the relationship between a history of vision, the production of space, and the epistemic techniques of colonialism.

• A comparative history of colonized islands and archipelagoes construed as “tropical.”

• Methods in postcolonial, anti-colonial, and decolonial reading of texts and images.

Web Site Vergil
Department Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies
Enrollment 12 students (20 max) as of 5:04PM Monday, September 25, 2023
Subject Middle East
Number GR6625
Section 001
Division Interfaculty
Campus Morningside
Section key 20233MDES6625G001