Photography: Theories and Practices of an International Medium
Professor Zeynep Gursel
Will Count Towards SAS – Anthropology MAJOR
Will NOT Count Towards SAS – Anthropology MINOR
This course examines histories, theories and practices of photography, a medium that has transformed significantly since the daguerreotypes of the mid-19th century. In 1839, Daguerre’s invention was presented as “a free gift to the world.” This course will look at how that gift has been put to use in photographic cultures around the world in contexts as diverse as portrait studios in Yogyakarta, a history museum in Vietnam, French advertising, Ottoman state photography, Soviet family albums and news imagery circulating worldwide. While we will pay careful attention to visual aesthetics, we will focus on photography as a documentary genre, a mode of knowledge deeply embedded in practices of how power is exerted. We will also be considering personal photographic archives such as family albums and scrapbooks and asking when private photographs become public representations. One central feature of the course will be learning about how scholars have thought about and through photography and discussing the complications of applying these theories transhistorically and cross-culturally. Topics for discussion include debates around truth in photography and the politics of representation, photography’s relationship to history and changing institutional uses of photography, as well as different photographic cultures and their anthropological and political significance.
About Professor Gursel
Zeynep Devrim Gürsel is a media anthropologist whose scholarship involves both the analysis and production of images. She is the author of Image Brokers: Visualizing World News in the Age of Digital Circulation (University of California Press, 2016), an ethnography of the international photojournalism industry during its digitalization at the beginning of the 21st century, based on fieldwork conducted in the United States, France and Turkey. She is also the director of Coffee Futures, an award-winning ethnographic film that explores contemporary Turkish politics through the prism of the everyday practice of coffee fortune-telling. (www.coffeefuturesfilm.com) Recently she has been researching photography as a tool of governmentality in the late Ottoman period. Specifically she is investigating photography during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid (1876-1909) from medical imagery to prison portraiture to understand emerging forms of the state and the changing contours of Ottoman subjects. During 2018-2019 she is a NOMIS Fellow at eikones Center for the Theory and History of the Image in Basel, Switzerland. While there she will be working on Portraits of Unbelonging, the first in-depth exploration of the official role of photography in the history of Armenian emigration to the United States.