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‘Type-cast?’: Rethinking Studio Photography in the Hill Stations of British India
It is well known that from the 1860s onwards, individuals from all over the Indian subcontinent were photographed and classified according to ethnic, religious, and caste criteria, and thereby reduced to ‘type’ within the colonial anthropological project. This paper examines a parallel but neglected phenomenon of the late nineteenth century: the production of ‘type’ photography in commercial studios in the Himalayas and its reception in the ‘visual economy’ of the British Empire. By paying close attention to the activities and outputs of photographic studios and considering them as sites of transcultural encounter rather than of strict segregation between coloniser and colonised, I seek to reverse the process of ‘type’-casting that was inflicted on the local actors who performed within them.
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