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AAS 2016 Print Program
Session Submission Type: Organized Panel
By examining the adoption of photography in Southeast Asia’s early modern period, this panel will demonstrate how photography was understood, practiced, mobilised, and negotiated as a [cultural and political] communicative tool, not merely as a colonial technological transfer process. This panel also examines how individual photographs project meaning and agency both visually as well as materially, enabling us to interpret photographs as both ‘visual’ and ‘material’ objects.
Political tensions within Southeast Asia were especially heightened with the influx of European colonialism from the mid-1850s to the 1910s. As Britain expanded its colonial territories from India to Burma and the French expanded the Indochinese empire into the upper Mekhong region of Laos, Siam occupied the non-colonial space in between, balancing its own geopolitics with those of two global imperial powers. The region’s elites introduced many cultural and political strategies during this period in attempts to assuage their anxieties and stabilise the turbulent political landscape.
The papers of this panel focus on a cross-section of elite Southeast Asian photographies of crypto-colonised Siam, the Shan States under the British Protectorate, and Cambodia under the French Protectorate. This panel explores how Western photographic technologies were deployed as both political and cultural medium in elites’ efforts to re-balance their positions within the realms of regional and global geopolitics.
Visual and Material Proclamation: The Role of Photography in the Accession of Siam’s King Chulalongkorn in 1868 - Lupt Utama, The Royal College of Art
Extravagant Ambiguities: Siam’s Representation at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition - Caverlee Cary, University of California, Berkeley
Picturing "Siwilai": Representations of Ethnic Difference in Siamese Elite Photography of the Fifth Reign (1868-1910) - Leslie A. Woodhouse, University of San Francisco
Images and Agendas: Shan Elite Participation in British Colonial Photography during Late-Nineteenth-Century to Mid-Twentieth-Century Burma - Thweep Rittinaphakorn, Independent Scholar