Accepted Paper:

A Long Portrait: Aesthetics and politics in everyday photography in Manipur, India  
Debanjali Biswas (King's College London)

Paper short abstract:

I analyse the aesthetics of everyday photo-ethnography in Manipur (India) and address how politics, indigenous issues and sense of one's own community is represented through the vernacular lens.

Paper long abstract:

Imphal is a city where the everyday is a conscientious witness to political turbulence that erupt due to indigenous struggles for self-determination, insurgency and counterinsurgency measures by the Indian armed forces. It is within this context, I explore everyday life in India through the works of local photographers who have documented each corner, crevice, rituals and revolutions in a city paralysed by conflict. As informed insider images on contemporary Manipur, they form a meticulous narrative on everyday life under extraordinary circumstances. Many images carry a sense of urgency; many convey an energy that reflects an 'impulse for change' while most mark silences and opacities of dominant political discourses. (Lorenzo & De Gemes 2016; Ram 2015). I analyse the aesthetics of everyday photo-ethnography to address how politics, indigenous issues and sense of one's own community is represented through the vernacular lens. The trove of images I curate, captures two sides of conflict in Manipur - episodes of territorial disputes, contested borders, militarisation, political violence on one side; the flux and flow of ordinary life on the other. The images I analyse come from little-known and nonprofessional photographers in the digital sphere and at local exhibitions, in an attempt to read the quotidian life from the vantage point of visual ethnography i.e. what is documented, what is remembered and in tracing accounts of agency and personhood. This is a part of my ethnographic research on local art practices that offer prospects to critique the state and construct the contemporary idea of Manipur.

Panel P084
Aesthetics and Performativity: Form and substance in cultural politics