On the Othered Hand

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Atlas Obscura has an odd article about 1850s photography of Egyptian archaeological sites, wherein capturing the ‘strange emptiness’ of scenes minus the contemporary population living nearby is characterised as some sort of ‘colonial agenda’ that ‘sidelined or erased indigenous residents of other countries’. Which is the kind of thing that would be easier to swallow if it weren’t so easy to find, for example, images of today’s Stonehenge set tourist-free within the strange emptiness of the Salisbury Plain.

I should say that I haven’t tracked down the cited scholarship, so this isn’t a judgment about its quality. But I’m reminded of an encounter with someone who was researching the treatment of human remains, and thought that the treatment thereof as aesthetic objects was uniquely something done by colonisers to the colonial Other: it turned out he simply hadn’t heard about European ossuary art.

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