PresidentialExperimentalMultiSession ., Part 1: Narrativizing the Visual: Images and Identity

AHA Session 149
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Suffolk Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
David Gilmartin, North Carolina State University
The Audience

Session Abstract

We propose an experimental comparative double panel (presented sequentially).  It focuses on the place in history of the nexus of visual culture and narratives (constructed by those who create and consume the visuals).  In part, presenters also incorporate new-tech approaches to this ‘visual turn’ in history, helping us to see implications for both research and teaching/learning.
Each panel works through different types of visual evidence used to construct narrative.  The first panel focuses especially on the ways that specific sites (architectural monuments, locales, domestic spaces) have been deployed in the telling of stories about:  the ‘Other’; the nation; and the middle-class family within it.  In the process, these case studies suggest how the ‘visual turn’ in history has affected work in art history, the history of science, and world history.  (The order of papers has been established to help the flow towards the topics and foci of the second panel.)
The second panel looks at the production and consumption of a wide range of images (murals, photographs, posters, labels and calendar art) for the narratives constructed about identity and situated-ness of individuals in changing societies.  These case studies demonstrate how visual evidence illuminates aspects of social and cultural history, including gender history, the history of Dalits (or Untouchables), and the relationship of the ‘everyday’ to narrative-construction.  (The flow here picks up with photography and domestic space to resonate with panel 1, then moves to the everyday from different class perspectives, and concludes with a study of cities that helps bracket the two panels, since panel 1 began by looking at cities.)
The panels resonate closely, not only through genres (e.g. photography of place as well as women) but also through contributions of visual narrative-construction to understandings about the nature of cities, or individuals’ envisioning their identities through connections to place as well as ideals. 
Background:  The proposed panels grow out of a conference (to be held March 5-6, 2010, sponsored by NCSU’s History Department), enabling us to share discussions and theorizing with a broader audience.  Simultaneously, the panels include several South Asianists, to mark Barbara Metcalf’s presidency and the theme chosen by her.[1]  Between visual-culture studies, art history (with its expanding orientations), more sophisticated “readings” by historians of visual evidence, and new IT ways of working with visual materials, historical research and teaching around “the visual” presents promising new directions. Some of these case studies use new technologies (ArchNet; Tasveer Ghar; AIIS’s online archives).  This builds on earlier AHA work, especially coverage in the special Newsletter issue on technologies, though it differs by insisting that both research and teaching can benefit from these applications.

[1]   These presenters are members of an informal research collaborative exploring together  how stories are ‘repackaged’ in the subcontinent.  Initial work focused on visual narratives with a long pedigree (e.g., the Ramayana and Muharram); increasingly we are looking at the construction of new stories (e.g. of Dalits or the nation) that follow these same patterns.

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