The project will investigate how the emergence of photography as a new technology played a pivotal role in the wider acceptance of bacteriological explanations of pestilence in the course of the third plague pandemic (1855-1959) and how it transformed public consciousness of infectious disease, hygiene, and the role of international cooperation in the protection of public health, by establishing plague as a paradigmatic agent of death and disorder in the modern age, whilst, at the same time, opening up an era where the meaning of health emergencies is actively and publically negotiated on a cross-cultural global basis. The project will collect and analyse for the first time all visual documents of the third plague pandemic, which broke out in 1855 in Southwest China and raged across the globe until 1959, causing the death of approximately 12 million people. The project’s aim is to engage in a historical and anthropological analysis of this global network of visual representations, underlining how it played a crucial role in the negotiation of geopolitical, colonial and biopolitical relations at the turn of the 20th century, with great bearing on public health consciousness and the social imagination of a new era of globalised hygienic modernity. Research will focus on four regions: China and Japan; India; Africa; South and North America, the first investigated by the Principal Investigator, while the rest being allocated to 3 postdoctoral researchers, all employed full-time in the project. While investigating the visual record of plague in their respective regions, researchers will engage in a collaborative and interdisciplinary analysis of the entangled history of the visual representation of the third pandemic, taking as a common analytical ground 4 different but vitally interlinked aspects of the visual representation of the pandemic: a) the built environment; b) civil disturbance and public order; c) death, corpses and burial; d) race, class and discrimination.
Fields of science
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