Imchasenla Longchar


In the colonial era, the act of photographing echoes ideas of panopticism. In this essay, the metaphor of panoptical gaze is applied to refer to a typology of images that characterised early anthropological and colonial form of photography. Many images from the colonial era do, after all, portray colonised subjects in a way which is objectifying, decontextualising or simply exoticising (and even eroticising). Therefore, using Michel Foucault’s discussion surrounding panopticism, this essay examines the relationship between photographic works that use the camera as a panoptical device and how the ethnography fieldwork symbolises a panoptical space during the colonial period.  To demonstrate and to challenge the ideas relating to panopticism, a critical study of Christopher von Fürer-haimendorf’s photographs of the Nagas of the Northeast India has been attempted and studied how the Nagas are represented through the lens. This essay also aims to encourage a critical attitude on the part of readers to the historical interaction of anthropology, photography and colonial administration.


Panopticon, Ethnography, Photography, Representation, Rewriting, Nagas.


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