Photographing Race in the Yale Peruvian Expedition, 1911–15

Friday, January 6, 2017: 8:30 AM
Room 403 (Colorado Convention Center)
Adam W. V. Warren, University of Washington
Between 1911 and 1915, surgeons and their assistants on the Yale Peruvian Expedition took hundreds of photographs of Quechua and Machiguenga indigenous peoples while traversing the Andean highlands, excavating Machu Picchu, and exploring the high jungle of Peru. This paper asks what a critical reading of expedition members' photographs––along with their anthropometric records, reports and diaries––can tell us about indigenous perceptions and engagement in a project of racial science. Catalogued alongside extensive records of anthropometric measurements and studies of health and disease, the photographs informed publications about racial variation among indigenous peoples in Peru and contributed to the expedition's larger goal of providing what its leader, Hiram Bingham, described as a comprehensive scientific study of the Andes and its inhabitants. At the same time, the photographic works reveal an uneven set of relations that emerged as surgeons and assistants, frustrated by their failure to encounter willing subjects and hindered by problems with equipment, tried out new practices of engaging communities, measuring, and photographing residents. Indigenous peoples' responses to these intrusions varied from enthusiastically complying with surgeon's efforts to have them perform as medical subjects, to outright defiance or reluctant submission to their gaze. This paper demonstrates the limits they placed on expedition members' efforts to measure, document, and racialize their bodies.
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