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Title: The aesthetics of imperial crisis : image making and intervention in British India, c.1857-1919
Author: Willcock, Sean
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis examines the visual cultures that developed in tandem with the violent crises of power that were endemic to Victorian imperialism. It looks primarily at the colonial artists and photographers who were working in British India and its borderlands from around the time of the 1857 Indian Uprising up until the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, arguing that image making was increasingly instrumental not only in mediating imperial violence, but also in moulding it. Of particular concern is the martial resonance of British aesthetic discourse in moments of crisis, as well as the entanglement of artistic and military imperatives that was characteristic of the photographing- and sketching-in-the-field that took place during episodes of unrest and their traumatic aftermaths. The case studies all lay great emphasis on how the formal conventions of aesthetic practices could affect the nature of the engagement of Briton and Indian alike with imperial violence, encouraging ways of looking and acting within a crisis that were consonant with established visual tropes. While the central focus of this thesis is the aesthetics of colonialism in South Asia, the arguments that are developed intersect with broader histories of illustrated journalism, international exhibitions, and atrocity photography. The material includes everything from draughtsmanship to oil painting, but a particular stress is placed on the agency of photographers as they operated in ways that could stage interventions in the processes of imperial conquest and counterinsurgency. Ultimately, I argue that violent colonial crises functioned to shift the terms in which wide-ranging areas of visual media were viewed and used by the British throughout the Victorian period.
Supervisor: Turner, Sarah Victoria Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available