Dept. of English, Nadelberg 6, Great Lecture Hall
Presence & Absence – Cape Colonial Photography and the Aesthetics of Historical Return and Disappearance
This talk looks at a collection of late 19th and early 20th century Cape colonial prison photographs produced in the context of attempts to reform and professionalise the colony’s penal system. As an archival collection, the photographs can be read as both the result of colonial criminal identification practices and as examples of colonial regimes of knowledge production through which bodies were marked and classified along the lines of race, gender, ethnicity and nationality.
While keeping in mind this institutional and epistemological background, the talk engages particular photographs within the framework of memory studies and in view of a revived scholarly discussion on the 'work of the dead'. Dr. Rizzo is interested in exploring how photographs of late 19th century male convicts, and especially the portraits of Kgosi Galeshewe, a late 19th century Bathlaping political leader and prisoner at the Breakwater Convict Station, configure and mediate the presence and absence of the dead, and how they can be understood as visual and material forms through which we are being summoned by the past.
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