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Raw Histories

Photographs have had an integral and complex role in many anthropological contexts, from fieldwork to museum exhibitions. This book explores how approaching anthropological photographs as 'history' can offer both theoretical and empirical insights into these roles. Photographs are thought to make problematic history because of their ambiguity and 'rawness'. In short, they have too many meanings. The author refutes this prejudice by exploring, through a series of case studies, precisely the potential of this raw quality to open up new perspectives.
Taking the nature of photography as her starting point, the author argues that photographs are not merely pictures of things but are part of a dynamic and fluid historical dialogue, which is active not only in the creation of the photograph but in its subsequent social biography in archive and museum spaces, past and present. In this context, the book challenges any uniform view of anthropological photography and its resulting archives. Drawing on a variety of examples, largely from the Pacific, the book demonstrates how close readings of photographs reveal not only western agendas, but also many layers of differing historical and cross-cultural experiences. That is, photographs can 'spring leaks' to show an alternative viewpoint. These themes are developed further by examining the dynamics of photographs and issues around them as used by contemporary artists and curators and presented to an increasingly varied public.
This book convincingly demonstrates photographs' potential to articulate histories other than those of their immediate appearances, a potential that can no longer be neglected by scholars and institutions.
Product Details

Promotional Information

Also available in hardback, 9781859734926 GBP50.00 (May, 2001)

About the Author

Elizabeth Edwards is Professor and Senior Research Fellow, University of the Arts London.


'I would like to recommend [the book] not only to anthropologists but to anyone with an interest in historical photographs and their representation.' Source 'A sensitive and provocative book.' Choice 'Edwards is clearly an expert in her field, with a wide theoretical and practical grasp of the role of photographic archives in museum collections. The bibliography is excellent, and the text is always well-written and closely argued Very useful and thought-provoking.' The Art Book 'Raw Histories deserves wide readership for many reasons. While there are parts that are challenging due to the density and complexity of the ideas, this book should become essential reading for scholars and students in a variety of visual disciplines and heritage institutions this book is in itself 'raw history' at its best. [The book] stimulates such questions, and thus exposes not only the rawness and complexity of photography as a form, but the agency of us all in framing, containing and releasing their research potential.' History of Photography 'This is an important and comprehensive study which should be read by visual anthropologists and their students, as well as curators in museums and art galleries who both look after photographic collections and curate exhibitions involving photos.' JRAI 'Raw Histories is a work of passion, determination and knowledge this is a rich text full of theoretical linkages, perceptive commentary, compelling research and abundant, well-captioned photographs. Edward's vision is intellectually challenging and her astuteness in managing the raw material - the photographs, the documents, the collections - is always evident. With optimism, insider knowledge and an unwavering grasp, Edwards leads you through the secret lives of photographs towards their latent possibilities.' Journal of Museum Ethnography' 'This is an important and comprehensive study which should be read by visual anthropologists and their students, as well as curators in museums and art galleries who both look after photographic collections and curate exhibitions involving photos.' The Royal Anthropological Institute 'I would imagine Raw Histories being read and taught not only in courses on anthropology,visual culture studies, history, and museum studies, but also in a course on research design and data analysis.' Visual Anthropology Review 'Raw Histories makes a significant contribution to the growing level of sophistication of the analysis of the collections and processes of representation which lie at the core of museums and archives.' Anthropologica 'Edwards presents the reader with countless avenues for reflection that would provide valuable insights into methodology for anyone engaged in anthropological research or study, within museum and universities alike.' Fiona Kerlogue, Social Anthropology: The Journal of the European Association of Social Anthropologists

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