Photography, Humanitarianism, Empire | Jane Lydon

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Photography, Humanitarianism, Empire | Jane Lydon


Published by Bloomsbury Academic, 2017

244 x 169 mm, paperback, 60 b/w illustrations


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With their power to create a sense of proximity and empathy, photographs have long been a crucial means of exchanging ideas between people across the globe; this book explores the role of photography in shaping ideas about race and difference from the 1840s to the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights. Focusing on Australian experience in a global context, a rich selection of case studies – drawing on a range of visual genres, from portraiture to ethnographic to scientific photographs – show how photographic encounters between Aboriginals, missionaries, scientists, photographers and writers fuelled international debates about morality, law, politics and human rights.

Drawing on new archival research, Photography, Humanitarianism, Empire is essential reading for students and scholars of race, visuality and the histories of empire and human rights.

Table of contents

1. Introduction: Photography, Humanitarianism, Empire
2. One Blood: The Nucleus of the Native Church
3. Veritable Apollos: Beauty, Race and Scientists
4. Blind Spots or Bearing Witness: Antislavery and Frontier Violence in Australia
5. Popularizing Anthropology: Elsie Masson and Baldwin Spencer
6. 'A Ray of Special Resemblance': H. G. Wells and Colonial Embarrassment
7. Happy Families?: UNESCO's Human Rights Exhibition in Australia, 1951



“A significant contribution to the history of humanitarianism, combining valuable descriptions of imagery with a careful analysis of the contexts in which photographs of Indigenous Australians were produced and used.” –  Johannes Paulmann, Director, Leibniz Institute of European History, Germany

“Historically situated yet framed within contemporary debates about human rights, Lydon challenges us to reconsider the photographic archive of colonialism and its legacy. Richly illustrated, and using a diverse range of little analysed source material from the 1840s to the 1950s, Lydon also importantly draws attention to the ethical issues that the research and use of these materials entails.” –  Gaye Sculthorpe, Curator, Oceania, The British Museum, UK

Jane Lydon is the Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History at the University of Western Australia. She currently leads the Australian Research Council-funded project, 'Globalization, Photography, and Race: the Circulation and Return of Aboriginal Photographs in Europe', which is partnered with four major European museums: the University of Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum, UK, the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, UK, the Musée de Quai Branly in Paris, France, and the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, the Netherlands.