Paradise Abandoned: A Study of the Visual Representation of the Andaman Islands, 1858-1906

9781514604281: Paradise Abandoned: A Study of the Visual Representation of the Andaman Islands, 1858-1906
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The purpose of this book is to enrich understanding of historical photography, especially anthropological uses of the medium, by drawing upon the substantial collection of anthropological photographs taken in the Andaman Islands between 1858 and 1906. The Andamanese, then perceived as the missing link between animal and human history, gained special attention in early British anthropology. Photography from the Andamans during this period, therefore, played a significant role in the development of early British anthropology, and in turn, the Andamans became an important site for experimentation in anthropological photographic techniques, i.e. composite, anthropometric and standardised methods. This book explores the history of photography and anthropology in the context of the colonisation of the Andamans, and the conditions of possibility that produced particular photographic techniques. The production of the Andaman photographs was subject to the discourses of nineteenth century anthropology and scientific positivism as much as it was to the processes, styles, limitations and etiquette of nineteenth century photography. By offering a reassessment of the interlinking of the photographic medium with nineteenth century anthropological practices, this publication comments on the nature of photography and suggests new ways of understanding historical photography as a whole. The final part of the book moves beyond the nineteenth century to consider the Andaman photographs as an archival collection, exploring the affectivity of the photographs in relation to contemporary aesthetic values. It analyses the possible spaces they might occupy in their contemporary existence within exhibitionary complexes, independent of their original historical meanings and uses. This publication examines photographic practices employed in the Andaman Islands between 1858 and 1906. This specific time span of nearly fifty years has been selected for several reasons. First, the year 1858 marks the colonisation of the territory by the East India Company. This event brought in colonial officers who, as will be fully explained, successfully employed photography for the delivery of information on the indigenous population. Leaving aside the ‘historical’ reasons for looking at the photographic material from the Andamans, it is worth mentioning that the remaining population of the islands still attracts enormous scientific attention today. Together with the advance of the sciences the Andamanese remain in the centre of international scientific inquiry. They are the subjects of research for the very same reason that the medium of photography was employed in the science of anthropology during the nineteenth century – their ‘primitivism’ has to be captured, collected, and analysed. It is in this context that this publication contributes to the understanding of nineteenth century practices and their implications. Although scientific tools and methods have changed significantly, the perception and the status of the Andamanese within science has not.

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