Photojournalism, Anthropology, and Ethnographic Authority

Essay Excerpt

In examining the imagined worlds of empire, John Comaroff critically examines the colonizers' images of empire, one being the notion of an "idyllic countryside." He writes, "For those who lamented a paradise lost to the cause of the industrial revolution, the idealized British past was situated in a pristine countryside cast timelessly in the early 18th century" (1989:667). These idealizations parallel Renato Rosaldo's (1989:120) notion of "imperialist nostalgia" as "conventional trope," or Donna Haraway's (1989:267) "colonial-nostalgic aesthetic."' Rosaldo "dismantles" the "ideology of imperialist nostalgia" examining the "process of yearning for what one has destroyed"; he suggests, provocatively and disturbingly, that anthropologists "inhabit partially overlapping ideological spaces" with colonizers and missionaries in "mourning the passing of traditional society" (1989:115- 116, 120). One could also implicate photojournalists and postcolonials in sharing this "conventional trope" of yearning for a pastoral past. As Raymond Williams (1973:289) reminds us, the persistence of these images of pastoralism accompanying agrarian capitalism is matched only by their historicity and by variable and powerful meanings "in feeling and activity; in region and time" (1973:4) (317).

Dominy, M. D. "Photojournalism, Anthropology, and Ethnographic Authority." Cultural Anthropology 8.3(1993): 317–337.

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