A decentred lens: decolonising historical photography between China and Ireland

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Historical photography – ‘the living image of a dead thing’, in Barthes’s phrase – is often overlooked in discussions of cultural heritage decolonisation (Barthes, 1981, pp. 78-79). This paper focuses on the Robert Hart photography collection, a little-known collection of historical photographs of China accumulated by the Irishman Robert Hart during his half-century as a British imperial administrator (De Angeli and Reisz, 2017). Like many such collections, it resists easy categorisation, and sits uneasily between coloniser and colonised, Europe and Asia, native and foreign, imperial and anti-imperial. In this paper, I want to locate colonial photography within Homi Bhabha’s liminal ‘Third Space’ of hybridity (Bhabha, 2004, p. 64, pp. 159-160, p. 316 & passim) and to suggest that the plural, multiplicious histories of coloniality in both Ireland and China present possibilities for historical and curatorial decolonisation of photography beyond colonial binaries.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings: Modern Heritage in the Anthropocene: Global Symposium 2022
EditorsEdward Denison, Shahid Vawda
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherModern Heritage in the Anthropocene (MoHoA)
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic) 9781399961936
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2023
EventModern Heritage in the Anthropocene Symposium - The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Oct 202228 Oct 2022

Publication series

NameMoHoA: Modern Heritage of the Anthropocene Conference Proceedings


ConferenceModern Heritage in the Anthropocene Symposium
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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