Accepted Paper:

Mediation Theory and Photography in Early Twentieth-Century China  

Author:

Oliver Moore (University of Groningen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper uses the case study of photography's experiences in early twentieth-century China to illustrate new methods of art historical analysis as well as convergences between photography's different regional histories and cultures.

Paper long abstract:

One collaborative impulse in shifting the traditional humanities closer to their intersection with anthropology has been the theory of mediation, most notably its arch-interpreter Jean Gagnepain's insistence on analyzing human behavior through means of dissociating its constituent domains of the technical, logical, ethnic and ethical. This panel contribution attempts only selectively to use the theory's emphasis on dissociation to enlighten a field of visual culture, namely photography in China in its first era of mass appeal, which occurred during China's transition from empire to republic in the 1910s.

Mediation provides a fruitful way to consider how images and the new experiences of images were shared, communicated and mediated. Deepening the discussion of this particular case study, Chinese conditions included the rapid and sometimes controversial innovation of numerous visual and literary forms generated both in China and from outside (America, Europe and Japan).

The main analytical outcome is the possibility to make psychological affinities—and resistances—to photographic images central to their historical discussion. This offers an enhancement to most discussions in- and outside China, expanding beyond the limits of narrowly historical and cultural emphases. It also offers a regional case study whose value need not be only parochial, but is all the more significant when its analysis is re-mapped to transnational/-cultural levels, and evaluated as a new object in some of the leading achievements of photography's theorization.

Panel P038
A clinical anthropology of art: theoretical, practical and disciplinary implications