Music & Culture Lecture Series: Upcoming Lectures

After a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are delighted to announce the return of our Music & Culture Lecture Series. The series will resume on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 with an address by Dr. Rumya Putcha.

“Somatic Orientalism and the Indian Body in Empire”
Dr. Rumya Putcha (University of Georgia)

Tuesday, March 8, 2022 (7:30PM)

Bringing together photography of the Indian body under the British and later the U.S. American Empire, this presentation examines how colonial technology cultivated somatic Orientalism. By this term, I refer to the sensory, bodily, and emotional attachments that extend from colonial rule and its raced imperatives.

Focusing in particular on photographic anthropology, such as commissioned works like The People of India (1868) and The Oriental Races and Tribes of India (1863), I argue that photographic technology cultivated somatic forms of Orientalism and in turn established an imperial epistemology—that the Indian body is and was always out of place or time. Drawing on archival evidence, I demonstrate how this epistemology in turn justified the export of Indians to work on plantations in the Indian Ocean and Caribbean regions. Through critical transnational feminist ethnographic and archival research, I trace the emergence of somatic Orientalism and its logics of race and gender to the mid to late nineteenth century and to the hypervisibility of Indians under the British Empire through their photographic, laboring, and affective representations.

Ultimately, I interrogate the affective imperatives of somatic Orientalism, arguing that the visual, debased, and silent representations of Indians that circulated and continue to circulate through travel photography and photojournalism installed and continue to normalize mechanisms and epistemologies of empire.